Melbourne-based biomedical start-up Soterius is collaborating with partners including RMIT University to develop an instant COVID-19 sensor that could help transform day-to-day management of the pandemic, protecting frontline workers and the wider community.
The Soterius Scout sensor, which claims to detect SARS-CoV-2 and variants on people’s breath, can deliver results within a minute to provide the all-clear for someone to enter their work environment or alert them if they need to undertake a medical COVID test and self-isolate.
Reliable, accurate and non-invasive, the product is now being further developed by Soterius in partnership with RMIT, MIP Diagnostics, the Burnet Institute, D+I and Vestech, towards commercial release early 2022.
Soterius co-founder Dr Alasdair Wood said the technology – which will be manufactured in Australia – is superior to other emerging environmental viral sensors that are ‘bulky, energy intensive and can detect only one type of virus’.
“Our biosensor is so small it can fit on a personal fob card and it’s easy to use – you just need to swipe your card over a reader at checkpoints,” Mr Wood said.
“Importantly, one sensor can detect up to 8 viral strains and our technology can be easily adapted to detect new variants or novel viruses as they emerge.
“We hope the Soterius Scout biosensor could be a vital tool for managing COVID-19, providing accurate early detection to prevent outbreaks and avoid the need for future lockdowns.”
RMIT project leader Professor Sharath Sriram said prototype tests conducted at RMIT, in partnership with Burnet Institute, revealed that the Soterius Scout biosensor can detect SARS-CoV-2 spike protein fragments ‘with impressive accuracy and no false positives’.
According to Mr Sriram, it can detect COVID-19 even if someone is asymptomatic.
“As the recent lockdowns across Australia show, COVID-19 is not going away any time soon and we need smart solutions to help us detect the virus and contain outbreaks,” Professor Sriram continued.
“It is exciting to see our platform sensor technology at the core of this smart new solution for the management of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses in workplaces, to help protect our frontline workers and the wider community.”