DBT-THSTI files patent for novel DNA aptamers against spike protein of SARS-CoV-2

13 Jul 2020

The humans have witnessed many a pandemic as diseases transmitted across communities and borders by microbial pathogens. Among these pathogens, throughout the history of pandemics, viruses posed a significant threat to public health. The recent outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Considering the fatality of COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, appropriate disease management strategies are required to curtail the disease transmission effectively. The development of vaccines or drugs against this novel virus, especially with the pandemic at our doors, has been challenging. More so, with the discovery of potent lead molecules or vaccine itself being both time taking and tedious processes. Rapid and accurate screening/detection of the population for the presence of infection may help in containing the disease. This requires a rapid and accurate diagnostic test.

To address the existing diagnostic gap for an antigen-based SARS CoV-2 detection assay, Dr. Tarun Kumar Sharma and his team at THSTI has developed a panel of SARS CoV2 spike binding aptamers. The panel was designed using the highly diverse (with 1015 unique molecules) aptamer library at THSTI. The spike protein was expressed and purified by Dr. Tripti Shrivastava also a scientist at THSTI.

Aptamers rival antibodies as their generation do not require an animal. Being a synthetic molecule, an aptamer does not show batch-to-batch variation. This means it can be easily scaled up. Aptamers developed by Tarun and his team can be used to detect the spike protein of SARS CoV2 in nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs and saliva. These aptamers are being adapted to an appropriate diagnostic platform for rapid and accurate detection of SARS CoV2 infection.

It is evident from the current situation that there is an urgent and unmet need to develop a rapid antigen detection test for SARS CoV2. The aptamer technology might be one of the answers.