Wyss Institute's rapid Zika test named 'Best of What's New'

October 19, 2016
A black cartridge containing a paper-based diagnostic for detecting the Zika virus is held up by a researcher at Harvard's Wyss Institute. Areas that have turned purple indicate samples infected with Zika, while yellow areas indicate samples that are free of the virus. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

A rapid Zika test, developed by an international, multi-institutional team of researchers led by synthetic biologist James Collins, Ph.D., at Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, has today been named a 2016 "Best of What's New" awards winner by Popular Science magazine in the Health category.

The "Best of What's New", currently in its 29th year, annually honors 100 revolutionary products and technologies that are transforming the world across a range of award categories: Aerospace, Auto, Engineering, Entertainment, Gadgets, General Innovation, Health, Home, Recreation, Security, and Software. The "Best of What's New" Health category, in which the Zika test technology is a winner, recognizes medical treatments and devices that could "solve an unsolvable problem" and utilize entirely new ideas and functions.

"We are tremendously honored to receive a 'Best of What's New' award for our paper-based Zika diagnostic," said Collins, who is a Wyss Institute Core Faculty member, and Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s Department of Biological Engineering. "Using synthetic biology, we have developed an inexpensive test that could diagnose a patient with Zika in the field within a few hours, which we hope could be used to contain Zika or other viral outbreaks."

To build the Zika test, Collins brought together a team including Wyss Institute scientists as well as collaborators from MIT, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Harvard Medical School (HMS), University of Toronto, Arizona State University (ASU), University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), Boston University (BU), Cornell University, and Addgene. They envisioned a new class of diagnostic that is inexpensive and rapidly deployable to screen blood, urine, or saliva samples for Zika or any other RNA virus including Ebola, SARS, measles, influenza, hepatitis C, and West Nile fever.

With that goal in mind, Collins' team has developed a diagnostic system that does not require refrigeration or electricity. They freeze-dry synthetic gene circuits onto paper discs. These biomolecular circuits are activated when the paper is rehydrated with a droplet of sample fluid; the disc changes color to indicate a positive result for Zika virus, similar to the visual readout of a home pregnancy test. To validate their rapid Zika test, the team successfully identified strain-specific Zika in blood samples from infected monkeys as well in laboratory cell cultures infected with the virus.

More recently, working with collaborators in Ecuador, the test has been used to accurately diagnose presence of Zika virus in patient samples. The ability to discern between strains of Zika is especially important for diagnosing the American strain of the virus, which is associated with rare but severe neurological symptoms including fetal microcephaly and Guillain-Barre´ syndrome. The "Best of What's New" judging criteria include the significance of the innovation, the quality of the design and its originality, and the ambition and scope of the project.

"The cell-free, paper-based tests developed by Jim Collins and his team provide a low-cost, stable platform for long-term storage and fast deployment of diagnostics, anywhere in the world, where they can rapidly diagnose the presence and identity of rapidly emerging viral pathogens. It is fantastic to have yet another recognition for the team's transformative work," said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who is the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children's Hospital, and also Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Explore further: Finding Zika one paper disc at a time

Related Stories

Finding Zika one paper disc at a time

May 6, 2016
An international, multi-institutional team of researchers led by synthetic biologist James Collins, Ph.D. at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, has developed a low-cost, rapid ...

A new paper-based test for the Zika virus

May 6, 2016
A new paper-based test developed at MIT and other institutions can diagnose Zika virus infection within a few hours. The test, which distinguishes Zika from the very similar dengue virus, can be stored at room temperature ...

Zika virus: Five things to know

February 8, 2016
A concise "Five things to know about.... Zika virus infection" article for physicians highlights key points about this newly emerged virus in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Brazil scientists: Culex mosquito not transmitting Zika

September 6, 2016
Brazilian researchers say they have concluded that the common Culex mosquito is not transmitting Zika, the rapidly spreading virus that has been linked to severe birth defects.

US regulators issue emergency authorisation for Roche Zika test: company

August 29, 2016
Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche said Monday that US regulators had issued emergency authorisation to use its not-yet-approved diagnostic test for detecting the Zika virus in certain circumstances.

Zika found in eye fluid in study

September 16, 2016
Zika can be detected in fluid inside the eyelid and in the eye's outermost layer, a new study shows.

Recommended for you

New Lyme disease tests could offer quicker, more accurate detection

December 7, 2017
New tests to detect early Lyme disease - which is increasing beyond the summer months -could replace existing tests that often do not clearly identify the infection before health problems occur.

Spinal tap needle type impacts the risk of complications

December 6, 2017
The type of needle used during a lumbar puncture makes a significant difference in the subsequent occurrence of headache, nerve irritation and hearing disturbance in patients, according to a study by Hamilton medical researchers.

Men with HPV are 20 times more likely to be reinfected after one year

December 5, 2017
A new analysis of genital human papillomavirus (HPV) in men shows that infection with one HPV type strongly increases the risk of reinfection with the same type. In fact, men who are infected with the type responsible for ...

New tuberculosis drugs possible with understanding of old antibiotic

December 5, 2017
Tuberculosis, and other life-threatening microbial diseases, could be more effectively tackled with future drugs, thanks to new research into an old antibiotic by the University of Warwick and The Francis Crick Institute.

Scientists create successful mass production system for bioengineered livers

December 5, 2017
Researchers report creating a biologically accurate mass-production platform that overcomes major barriers to bioengineering human liver tissues suitable for therapeutic transplant into people.

Trials show inactivated Zika virus vaccine is safe and immunogenic

December 5, 2017
The investigational Zika purified inactivated virus (ZPIV) vaccine was well-tolerated and induced an immune response in participants, according to initial results from three Phase 1 clinical trials. Scientists at the Walter ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.