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Accelerating Impact: Dr Despina Moschou on ground-breaking biodevice technology combatting COVID-19

Dr Despina Moschou continues to lead the development of lab-on-chip technology for faster, more accurate COVID-19 detection and diagnosis.

A lady holding up a green credit card sized handheld COVID-19 test
World fastest handheld COVID-19 test helping to achieve a healthier world

World fastest handheld COVID-19 test helping to achieve a healthier world

With help from the University’s EPSRC IAA Open Call fund, Dr Despina Moschou continues to lead the development of lab-on-chip technology for faster and more accurate detection and diagnosis of COVID-19.

The challenge

Following the coronavirus outbreak in December 2019, COVID-19 has been reported on every continent. The virus, known as SARS-COV-2, has infected more than 759 million people, and killed more than 6.8 million so far (World Health Organisation, 2023).

Funded during the pandemic as part of concerted efforts to develop rapid and reliable community testing, the Lab-on-PCB technology project has resulted in the development of one of the fastest Point of Care COVID-19 diagnostic devices in the world. This has acquired international interest across the scientific community for its potential to improve pandemic test and track response capability.

"COVID-19 has taught us how fast a disease can spread globally within a short period of time. To prepare for the future we need to have ready-made diagnostic technology of much more advanced capability than existing ones, using fewer reagent volumes and less reliant on global logistic chains. We must also consider sustainable materials for all new tech to avoid the excess waste we have witnessed during this pandemic from lateral flow tests.” Dr Despina Moschou

Advancing science to safeguard health

The project involved developing and testing the lab-on-chip prototype – an enhanced, faster, miniaturised PCR-equivalent test, that doesn’t need to be sent to a lab to be analysed. Tests were conducted on COVID-19 patient samples collected by collaborators at Bath’s Royal United Hospital (RUH) and from wastewater samples from UK catchments.

Although this project focused on testing for COVID-19, Dr Moschou believes that the genetic detection device has the potential to be adapted to detect a wide range of diseases and a similar approach is currently being developed for cancer diagnosis and prognosis.

How IAA funding made a difference

According to Despina, the IAA award provided essential, rapidly accessible translational funding that would not otherwise have been available, enabling the team to employ a Research Associate to progress the technology in the laboratory.

"The IAA-funded Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr Sotirios Papamatthaiou was instrumental in the success of this global health project. He conducted the bulk of the related lab work and experiments, communicated the results and methodology accurately and collaborated with me like an extension of myself." Dr Despina Moschou

Next steps

Realising the importance of having a commercial vision to reach end users, Dr Moschou is pushing forward with the commercialisation of the technology in partnership with two of her co-founded ventures- biotIP and Tesla Diagnostix Inc - and the support of a biotech-focused investment bank (Bioscience Equity Partners).

It is anticipated that this ground-breaking research, helping to develop a resilient health system in readiness for future pandemics, could also be adapted to detect a wide range of diseases, including cancer, strains of antimicrobial resistance, and other viruses in the future.

"My vision is to fully transform the way healthcare is delivered via rapid diagnosis; with the end-goal being early cancer diagnosis via blood testing.” Despina Moschou

Dr Moschou is a Lecturer in Bath’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering and the Lab on Chip expert in C3Bio.

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