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EU Researchers Awarded €3M to Develop POC Molecular Tests

NEW YORK – The European Commission has awarded a team of researchers €3 million ($3.3 million) to develop diagnostic tools for infectious disease testing.

The project, called "Towards an instrument-free future of molecular diagnostics at the point-of-care," has been funded through the EC's Horizon 2020 program. It is set to commence in January 2020 and run through the end of 2022. Investigators at the Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas (FORTH), a Greek research institute, are coordinating the effort.

Other institutions involved include Institut Pasteur in France, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the UK, Italy's National Research Council, and Gnosis Data Analysis, a Greek informatics firm based, like FORTH, in Heraklion, Crete.

According to the grant abstract, the researchers aim to develop an instrument-free approach for molecular diagnostics. They plan to create a method that does not require heaters or modules requiring electricity, but that takes advantage of enzymatically-amplified nucleic acids detection.

The researchers aim to create diagnostic tools for genetic amplification based on ligases, polymerases, and restriction enzymes that can operate at ambient temperatures, combined with quantitative smartphone colorimetric or UV detection. They will also demonstrate their approach by testing human blood and swab samples for influenza and HIV, as well as plant samples for the pathogen Xylella fastidiosa.

The researchers believe the method should provide a result in less than 60 minutes, demonstrate sensitivities down to clinically relevant values, and cost around $1 per assay. They will also evaluate the applicability of their instrument-free approach using predictive models.

According to the researchers, their developed approach could eventually find use in applications beyond molecular diagnostics, "resulting in substantial societal as well as economic benefits."