Aug. 28, 2023

Meet ViroSense, a test kit that targets rapid, accurate disease detection for everyone

UCalgary team led by Schulich researcher Amir Sanati-Nezhad aims to validate and implement a new point-of-care technology platform ahead of the next pandemic
From left: Jiya Jakher, Mahmood Khalghollah, Sara Mah, Jerry Li, Fereshteh Vajhadin, Azam Zare, Dr. Amir Sanati-Nezhad and Mohsen Hassani — the team behind ViroSense.
From left: Jiya Jakher, Mahmood Khalghollah, Sara Mah, Jerry Li, Fereshteh Vajhadin, Azam Zare, Amir Sanati-Nezhad and Mohsen Hassani. Maryann Magnaye, Advancement

In an era defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for rapid and accurate disease detection has become paramount.

To address this challenge and make a lasting impact, Dr. Amir Sanati-Nezhad, PhD, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering and the Canada Research Chair in BioMEMS, has helped develop a groundbreaking test kit, ViroSense. It is capable of detecting not only COVID, but also a range of other diseases and illnesses.

“We are working towards adapting the technology to be ready for the next pandemic,” says Sanati-Nezhad. “I’m expecting, for the next pandemic, in-home testing will significantly complement in-lab testing. Everyone would have access to in-home testing as accurate as PCR tests.”

ViroSense overview

ViroSense is a point-of-care device that monitors different biomarkers to diagnose and prognose diseases and monitor the disease progression or recovery. It is a technology platform that uses electrochemical sensors and self-powered capillary microfluids. The sensors analyze the biofluid as it is sampled, and the quantitative results are displayed directly on the screen. Biofluids examined can include blood, urine, saliva and nasal samples.

“This technology has been used to test for COVID, influenza, concussions, cancer and, most recently, for monitoring stress level,” says Sanati-Nezhad.

The test kits for viral infection detection have seen promising outcomes, performing equivalent to PCR or ELISA test results that have been validated in collaboration with Alberta Precision Laboratories. In addition to the governmental research funding, the team has received translational funding from the Alberta government and support from the ADEPT (Alberta Diagnostic Ecosystem Platform for Translation) program to clinically validate and commercialize the technology to help better manage viral infections in Alberta.

Amir Sanati-Nezhad leads the ViroSense Project.

Amir Sanati-Nezhad leads the ViroSense Project.

Maryann Magnaye, Advancement

ViroSense goals

The main goal Sanati-Nezhad and his team have with the project is to make the devices available at a low cost, have rapid testing be as accurate as gold standard tests, and to target those in remote areas for in-home use first.

“There are a lot of challenges for pathogen detection in remote settings and rural areas,” says Sanati-Nezhad. “One of our missions is to hand over these point-of-care devices to people in remote areas, rural settings, long-term care facilities and potentially everyone for in-home testing.”

What’s next?

The team is currently looking to manufacture and commercialize the devices for low-cost distribution. Drawing on their expertise, knowledge and unwavering commitment to improving health care, the team is determined to revolutionize disease diagnostics, paving the way for a healthier future for everyone.

At the University of Calgary, we champion the spirit of initiative and entrepreneurial thinking. We are a community of innovators always ready to Start Something. Our commitment to learning from experience and driving economic growth is what sets us apart. Whether it's groundbreaking research, creative solutions to real-world problems, or launching a new enterprise, UCalgary is a hub for knowledge exchange and resourceful thinking.

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