Covid-19 detection

Together with our partners Lionix International and Qurin Diagnostics and supported by public-private partnership PhotonDelta, we are committed to accelerate the development of a fast, inexpensive and reliable covid-19 test by unlocking the potential of integrated photonics. 

Our contribution

The covid-19 pandemic is on the forefront of our minds everywhere around the planet. Taking the train, joining a meeting or going to the supermarket - the concern to increase the risk of infection has become our new companion. Surfix has decided to join forces with its partners and contribute to the global fight against the covid-19 virus by using our expertise and core technologies to curb of the spreading of the virus. Our team is driven to develop a detection device to test for if you are infected with the corona-virus now or have been infected in the past. We are aiming for inexpensive, accessible and fast testing devices. 

Enabling mass testing

The point-of-care (PoC) testing of virus DNA or antibodies is considered the holy grail of medical diagnostics. The idea however, is relatively simple: a sample is taken and the test is performed near patient and within minutes you have a result. With highly infectious diseases such as the coronavirus, being able to test on the spot in e.g. a patient's home can be life saving, and there is no time-consuming and expensive lab work involved.

The aim is to have SARS-CoV-2 testing devices in doctors’ offices, which yield reliable test results within 5 minutes. The device will be built around a photonic biochip using LioniX International’s mature and proven silicon nitride based integrated optics technology (TriPleX™). The ultimate goal is to make a test for the masses- a widely available, disposable test, which can be read out in a hand-held PoC device and will only cost a few euros.

TWO PATHWAYS for testing covid-19

The photonic biochip works on the basis of light passing through a waveguide. We use our material-selective nanocoating technology to bind bioreceptors or ‘hooks’ to the surface of the waveguide. If a sample containing virus is brought into contact with the waveguide it will attach itself to the hooks, which is detected through the change in properties of the light that’s being led through the waveguide. The detection of a coronavirus infection can be achieved in two (actually three) ways: 

  1. Either covid-19 can be directly detected by taking a swab sample of the virus in nose or throat ...
    For direct virus detection the hooks are receptors for the virus particle itself. This is a different approach compared to the current standard testing method, which detects genetic material after lysing the virus and by utilizing RT-PCR.

  2. ... or the presence of antibodies can be detected in a patient's blood after an infection.
    The same principle can also be applied to look for antibodies when the patient has developed an immune response. The proteins produced by the immune system are the tell-tale sign of whether or not someone has been infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the past – perhaps without realizing it. This is ‘simply’ a matter of placing antibody receptors on the waveguide, instead of the virus receptors.

A biochip for many applications

A video team from the Compamed, a leading trade fair for medical technology, visited our facilities on the campus of the Wageninen University. We were happy to show our newest project: The development of a biosensor based on our photonic biochip, can be used as a fast and cost-efficient mass test for covid-19.

A German version of the video can be found here.