The CONVAT project, led and coordinated by Prof. Laura M. Lechuga, Group Leader at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), a BIST centre, will develop a point-of-care platform for rapid diagnosis and monitoring of coronavirus. The biosensor device will also allow for the analysis of different types of coronavirus present in reservoir animals, such as bats, to monitor the evolution of these viruses and prevent future infectious outbreaks in humans.
The European Commission has prompted a quick response to focus research efforts on the diagnosis and treatment of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. On March 6, 2020, both the European Commission and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation announced that they were awarding 17 research projects through a special call. Of the 17 projects, one stems from Spain: the CONVAT project, headed by Prof. Laura M. Lechuga, Leader of the Nanobiosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), a centre of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST). In addition, eight other Spanish research centres have been selected to participate in six of the 17 projects. These will receive a total of 2.4 million euros, half of which will come from the CONVAT project led by the ICN2.
CONVAT is a collaboration between Spain, Italy, and France. In addition to Prof. Lechuga’s group, three other centres will take part: Prof. Jordi Serra Cobo from the University of Barcelona (UB) and his research group who have extensive experience in the study of coronavirus in animals and its epidemiology, Prof. Remi Charrel’s laboratory at the University of Marseille, who is a leader in virology and molecular biology, pioneering the development and production of biological material for the validation of new diagnostic systems, and the Italian National Institute of Infectious Diseases (INMI), where researchers from Dr. Antonino Di Caro’s laboratory were among the first to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and which is the reference institute for the analysis and diagnosis of COVID-19.
The project has a duration of two years, but since it is based on previous know-how, results are expected to be produced in less than a year. CONVAT will provide a new device based on optical biosensor nanotechnology that will allow the detection of coronavirus in about 30 minutes, directly from the patient’s sample and without the need for testing in centralized clinical laboratories. This new technology could also quickly identify whether it is a common coronavirus or flu infection. In fact, the project aims to extend beyond the current pandemic and the human diagnosis. The new biosensor device would also be used for the analysis of different types of coronavirus present in reservoir animals, such as bats, in order to observe and monitor possible evolutions of these viruses and prevent future outbreaks in humans.
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