NSF Rapid Funding to Engineer a Response for Covid-19 Protective Equipment

By Trevor Thornton, NCI-SW Director

Miguel José Yacamán, a faculty member in the ¡MIRA! Center at NAU and a principal investigator for the NCI-SW renewal has been awarded a grant from the NSF’s Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding program to develop a physics-based technology for COVID-19 testing. The new project, called “Development of a New Test for SARS-CoV-2 using Single Molecule Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy,” will use surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy to identify unique proteins on the surface of the COVID virus. The technique exploits a resonance effect due to the electromagnetic field around gold-copper nanoparticles that amplifies the otherwise very weak Raman signal. The goal of the work is to come up with a rapid, point-of-care sensor that can detect the COVID virus with the same precision as so-called PCR tests, that are considered the goal-standard. According to Yacaman “If successful, our research will be the first step in developing a method based on physics that will be fast and inexpensive, with high sensitivity and specificity and low percentage of false negatives.” The work is a collaboration between ¡MIRA! and the Pathogen and Microbiome Institute at NAU.