Project Lead(s): Pohl Milon
Lack of early diagnosis of pathogens is a major contributing factor to the increased mortality from infectious diseases seen in tropical countries.
The World Health Organization considers malaria to be the most devastating parasitic infection and one of the three infectious diseases posing the largest health burden on the world’s population.
The project eBioPhy sought to provide a low-cost and easy-to-deploy platform to detect plasmodium species causing malaria, by combining molecular and biophysical concepts with engineering tools to detect pathogens in biological samples.
First, the team used ribosome profiling, together with genomic and transcriptomic data, to identify new biomarkers of plasmodium species.
Some of the potential novel biomarkers were cloned and recombinantly expressed in E. coli. Other biomarkers were further analyzed to obtain exposed fragments of their parental protein.
Recombinant proteins and peptide fragments were used for the selection and evolution of high-affinity binders (aptamers) by applying the SELEx technology.
Concomitantly, the team developed a low-cost optical adaptor for fluorescence quantification, using smartphones to allow the detection of corresponding target biomarkers by either fluorescence or fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) changes.
These fluorescence-intensity variations could be monitored with the eBioPhy fluorescence reader and a smartphone.
The eBioPhy platform is based on the specific recognition and visualization of pathogens using fluorescently and chemically modified aptamers, and data collection and analysis using smartphone capabilities and low-cost optical adapters.
The Android application for smartphones allows the recording and quantification of fluorescent signals.
As developed, the platform could be scalable to adapt commercially available rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) based on antibody-mediated recognition of pathogens.
The team plans to raise funds to patent the technology and a manuscript is in preparation.