Through our Rapid Response Research awards, seed funding from the Laboratory for Genomics Research, and direct support from generous donors, the IGI sponsored more than 20 COVID-19 research projects focusing on developing new diagnostic tests, gaining a better understanding of the basic biology of the virus, supporting research on vaccines and therapeutics, and more. Here’s a round-up of the latest preprints and published papers from IGI-supported COVID-19 research:
Surveillance Testing on Campus & the FAST Saliva Study
In April 2020, the IGI opened a COVID-19 diagnostic testing lab in response to an unmet need for testing in the Berkeley community. Since then, we’ve been working on ways to increase capacity and make testing easier and more efficient, including the FAST saliva testing study on the UC Berkeley campus.
- In two new preprints, IGI researchers outline the testing protocol developed in the FAST study using non-invasive saliva samples. Results of the test protocol itself and the participants’ positive experiences show that saliva testing can be effective as a routine surveillance measure.
- IGI researchers have also released new work analyzing methods to reduce asymptomatic spread in a campus environment, finding that surveillance testing and limiting social groups to no more than six people are crucial, effective measures.
While the IGI diagnostics lab was busy processing samples using standard PCR-based diagnostic methods, researchers working on next-generation CRISPR-based diagnostics and nanotechnology quickly pivoted to developing these tools for COVID-19.
- IGI Founder & President Jennifer Doudna, along with IGI researchers Dave Savage and Patrick Hsu, have developed a CRISPR-based diagnostic test for detecting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in saliva samples in just 30 minutes. This is in addition to work from the Doudna lab in collaboration with researchers at Gladstone Institutes on a new CRISPR-based test that uses a smartphone camera to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in a patient sample.
- IGI researcher Markita Landry has developed a reusable, light-based sensor that uses nanomaterials to detect SARS-CoV-2 in less than two hours.
New COVID-19 Therapeutics
With all of the recent news about vaccines, the work on drugs to treat COVID-19 has largely been overshadowed, but important progress has been made there as well and the work continues.
- IGI researchers screened a library of compounds that are already approved and available for other conditions to test for activity against COVID-19. They identified seven novel candidate treatment drugs. Another team of researchers also showed the potential efficacy of the cancer drug plitidepsin against COVID-19.
Learn more about all of our COVID-19 research projects, and stay tuned for more updates!