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Transforming How Infectious Diseases Are Detected Through Nanosensor Technology Diagnostics

By- Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI)

What would it take to transform the detection, diagnosis, and surveillance of infectious disease worldwide, and develop a device that could produce accurate, reliable results, quickly?

Recent events surrounding the threat posed by the COVID-19 global pandemic highlight the urgent need for better methods for front-line mass screening to contain the spread of microbial pathogens. Today’s practice of scanning foreheads for signs of fever cannot detect asymptomatic or presymptomatic infections, nor can it distinguish the deadly novel coronavirus from less life-threatening respiratory illnesses. And other diagnostic test methods may be inaccurate or too slow to return results.

One pioneering biotech company envisioned a bold new solution, a breakthrough concept using portable nanosensor technology diagnostics to pinpoint pathogens in under one minute. But to commercialize its patented technology and bring its life-saving platform concept to market, it needed a strategic partner with deep domain knowledge and fabrication expertise. This would be realized through a partnership with the Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) innovation center—the Analog Garage, and with ADI’s Hillview fab process engineering team.

Invaders

Microbial pathogens, including viruses and bacteria, are responsible for millions of deaths a year. During the last century, the fight to control infectious disease met with numerous successes, including the eradication of smallpox, and the near elimination of measles, mumps, and tetanus. But viral epidemics and pandemics still occur, impacting the lives and economies of nations.

Pic-1
Transmission electron microscope image showing COVID-19 coronavirus emerging from the surface of human cells. (Image: © NIAID-RML)

Fighting Back

How can we keep people safe in the continuing battle to control and eliminate deadly contagions? Front-line mass screenings are one solution. However, current methods for detecting infectious disease in the field take 15 minutes to 4 hours—too slow to control the spread or contain a rapidly advancing pandemic. Furthermore, today’s tests are often inaccurate or expensive and require lab time, trained technicians, and complex sample preparation.

PIC-2Current Diagnostics

  • 15 minutes to 4 hours
  • Impractical for mass screenings

Mass Symptom Screenings Today

  • Only look for fever and cough
  • Can’t detect cases without symptoms
  • Can’t distinguish between respiratory illnesses

PIC-3A different type of coronavirus test is required to screen the U.S. population on the necessary scale. What is needed is a test that detects antigens, which would require a major technology breakthrough.

Pinpoint: A Breakthrough Change Agent

Pinpoint Science, a Northern California healthcare technology startup, envisioned a more effective solution for point of care testing and diagnostics—an easy to use, portable reader and plug-in cartridge, armed with an advanced nanosensor. As an agent for change, the device could quickly detect biomarkers, such as antibodies and antigens, and rapidly identify the specific microbial pathogens responsible for causing sickness and death. Equipped with disposable, targeted pathogen detection cartridges, the reader would generate precise results in the field, with no lab, medical technicians, or sample prep needed.

Pic-4The science underlying Pinpoint’s nanosensor technology diagonostics was developed by Pinpoint’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Nader Pourmand, Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz.

“We started a few years before COVID-19 emerged,” said Pinpoint CEO Lisa Diamond. “We were targeting influenza in humans and bluetongue virus in animals with a nanosensor-based test, a diagnostic using antibodies or synthetic molecules to detect and measure specific proteins to identify infection. We believe our platform will maintain its value to humanity well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.” Today, Pinpoint is working to commercialize this technology, originally derived from functionalized nanopipettes developed by Dr. Nader Pourmand.

Pinpoint and ADI Join Forces

In early 2019, Pinpoint turned to Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) and its innovation center, the Analog Garage to help transform its dream into a reality. The Garage, together with ADI’s Hillview fab process engineering team, partnered with Pinpoint to mature and bring to market its point-of-care rapid pathogen detection technology.

Pinpoint Science selected ADI for its unique MEMS fabrication capabilities and sensor development capacity and its willingness to invest in emerging technology. ADI’s precision data converters are also a perfect fit for electrochemical platforms such as Pinpoint’s. Pinpoint’s portable reader will be based around one of these products – the ADuCM355 chemical sensing platform.

Early Evaluation Stage

ADI modified its process to custom fabricate the sensor based on the early-stage startup’s design. Pinpoint will do the testing to characterize the sensor’s performance, and if the results are positive, transform it into a functionalized nanopore-based biosensor.

“Analog Devices believes Pinpoint’s novel nanosensor technology diagnostics holds great promise for a wide range of applications, especially for rapid, low cost pathogen detection, and we look forward to collaboration with Pinpoint in bringing this breakthrough technology to market,” said Nimrode Moreshet, director of emerging business, ADI.

Launching New Companies into the Unknown

ADI first discovered Pinpoint Science through SkyDeck, an early stage UC Berkeley incubator. Pinpoint Science was at SkyDeck for two terms, receiving formative guidance and support from the renowned academic accelerator. ADI was an early investor in SkyDeck–the global hub for entrepreneurship recognized for launching new companies into the world.

“Our collaboration means we can begin to realize the potential of our groundbreaking technology,” commented Lisa Diamond, CEO, Pinpoint Science. “We are still at an early stage. However, if our vision is confirmed in validation testing, we see the immediate real-world need for our platform, especially with the pandemic posed by the novel coronavirus. Pinpoint’s technology holds the potential to address the urgent need for universal COVID-19 testing.”

Pinpoint’s Vision: Simple, Flexible, and Fast Pathogen Detection

Pic-5Pinpoint’s vision is to create a general-purpose platform—swappable cartridges plug into a reader to detect specific pathogens in samples of blood, saliva, or nasal secretions. The cartridge’s nanosensors can detect specific markers of infectious disease: viral and bacterial proteins and host antibodies. Results are displayed in less than one minute.

Pinpoint’s novel biosensor technology makes label-free electrical detection of specific biomolecules possible, with high precision and low cost for applications such as point-of-care diagnostics, pandemic screening, animal health, and food safety.

The Human Impact of Pinpoint’s Nanosensor Technology Diagnostics

Pic-6Today, as the pandemic spreads across the world, Pinpoint Science is highly focused on COVID-19 virus detection. Significant technical risks and design challenges remain.

But the trusted collaboration between Pinpoint and ADI brings the promise of reducing the time and cost of detecting infectious diseases globally while improving personalized patient care and saving lives.

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Nitisha Dubey

I am a Journalist with a post graduate degree in Journalism & Mass Communication. I love reading non-fiction books, exploring different destinations and varieties of cuisines. Biographies and historical movies are few favourites.

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