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Grant will fund Ryerson researchers’ efforts to develop COVID-19 immunity test

Professors Dustin Little, Scott Tsai and Darius Rackus receive funds from COVID-19 Immunity Task Force
October 01, 2020
Professors Darius Rackus, Scott Tsai and Dustin Little

Professors Darius Rackus (left), Scott Tsai and Dustin Little (right) have been awarded a $235,800 grant by the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

Ryerson researchers have received a federal grant to support their development of a low-cost, easy-to-use diagnostic device that could be employed to rapidly and reliably detect COVID-19 immunity. The device’s potential applications include assessing the effectiveness of vaccines and determining a population’s level of immunity to the virus.

A team led by professor Dustin Little of the Department of Chemistry and Biology, professor Scott Tsai of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and incoming Ryerson chemistry professor Darius Rackus has been awarded a $235,800 grant by the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. The goal of their research is to develop a cost-effective, simple and portable device that can, with a small sample of blood, detect the neutralizing antibodies that indicate an immunity to COVID-19 in as little as 30 to 45 minutes. The technology could potentially lead to fewer false negatives as the test could detect a smaller concentration of the antibodies than other neutralizing antibody tests. The portable design would mean testing could occur in various point-of-care centres, such as doctors’ offices, avoiding the need to send samples to labs for testing.

The diagnostic device could also be deployed to test the efficacy of potential COVID-19 vaccines that have reached phase 3 clinical trials to test individual and community virus immunity.

“The ability to rapidly test for immunity to COVID-19 will be an essential tool in the efforts to address this worldwide pandemic,” said Steven N. Liss, Ryerson’s vice-president, research and innovation. “Congratulations to professors Little, Tsai and Rackus and their team. Their interdisciplinary approach will contribute meaningfully to the development of this needed technology.”

The grant is one of 22 projects being funded through a collaboration between the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The task force was launched by the Government of Canada in April 2020 to track the virus spread as well as immune responses to COVID-19, drawing on expertise from universities, hospitals, and provincial and territorial health officials from across the country.

Learn more about the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and the studies funded. , external link