June 25, 2020

Purdue University, Raytheon BBN Technologies, PortaScience, Cortex Design, and LaDuca partner on COVID-19 point-of-care test kit

mohit-verma Mohit Verma demonstrates bio sensor technology. (Photo provided) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.— Purdue University, Raytheon BBN Technologies, a Raytheon Technologies company, PortaScience Inc., Cortex Design Inc., and LaDuca LLC on Wednesday, June 25th announced a collaboration to produce and manufacture a COVID-19 point-of-care test. The test will be submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval.

The test is administered by collecting saliva and applying it to a handheld paper-based biosensor. When placed in a portable heating device, this biosensor produces a color change within 45 minutes to indicate the diagnosis. If approved, the test would be an affordable and accessible alternative to other COVID-19 tests.

"An accessible and truly affordable COVID-19 test would be game changing in the United States," said Theresa Mayer, Purdue’s executive vice president for research and partnerships. "From the outset of the pandemic, Purdue researchers have been working on a variety of therapies and technologies to address COVID-19. If the test is approved by the FDA, this partnership will enable the test to be manufactured and distributed at scale to reduce costs and increase access." 

The test was developed by Mohit Verma, an assistant professor in Purdue’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. It was inspired by his research to develop a more affordable and efficient method to diagnose Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD), a common disease among beef cattle. Like COVID-19 tests, BRD tests can be expensive and require a medical professional to administer, so Verma developed assays that contain biosensors to detect the nucleic acids specific to the disease. Due to the simplicity of the design, the tests are affordable and do not require a medical professional.

"This collaboration marks an important milestone, as we work to provide an affordable, reliable and scalable COVID-19 test," Verma said. "We are hopeful that this test will help address some of the barriers related to access — such as cost, availability, and convenience — that have prevented or delayed the diagnosis of COVID-19. The team looks forward to submitting the test to the FDA for approval, so that we can help slow the spread of this highly contagious disease."

The COVID-19 test applies a data analysis tool developed by Raytheon BBN Technologies that rapidly screens for pathogens through DNA sequencing. PortaScience is providing expertise in diagnostics manufacturing, distribution and commercialization. LaDuca LLC is providing regulatory expertise and Cortex is assisting with product design.

“Raytheon is adapting cyber tools designed to sift through massive amounts of cyber data to detect COVID-19,” said Brad Tousley, president of Raytheon BBN Technologies. “Instead of detecting bad code on a network, we’re looking for the virus’ unique RNA sequences for Purdue to target in the test.”

The test has performed well in a lab setting and the team plans to submit the test for fast-track FDA approval this summer. The hope is that the test will be available to consumers within a matter of months.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Media contacts: Kayla Wiles, wiles5@purdue.edu (working remotely, but will provide immediate response)

Matt Trojan, senior director, Subject Matter, trojan@teamsubjectmatter.com

Source: Mohit Verma, msverma@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: A publication-quality photo of Mohit Verma is available on Google Drive.

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