Gil Garnier PhD Director and Professor Bioresource Processing Research Institute of Australia (BioPRIA) PALS ARC Industry Transformation Research Hub Department of Chemical Engineering Monash University 

New 20-Minute COVID-19 Test Can Detect Antibodies in Single Drop of Blood Interview with:

Gil Garnier PhD Director and Professor Bioresource Processing Research Institute of Australia (BioPRIA) PALS ARC Industry Transformation Research Hub Department of Chemical Engineering Monash University 

Prof. Garnier

Gil Garnier PhD
Director and Professor
Bioresource Processing Research Institute of Australia (BioPRIA)
PALS ARC Industry Transformation Research Hub
Department of Chemical Engineering
Monash University What is the background for this study?

Response: We wanted to develop a test that would be:

1) Reliable and fast to perform,

2) Easy and fast to manufacture,

3) Easy and fast to distribute and be adopted by the Health care community.

We also wanted to capitalize on our vast expertise and experience from developing novel blood typing tests. Our strategy was to develop a serology COVID test using the current Gel card technology available in most hospital and blood laboratories throughout the world. Equipment and expertise are already available from point of care setting to high throughput/automated systems measuring 100-200 test/ h. Also, these cards are currently produced by many companies all over and these can be shipped all international. How does this test differ from other tests for the COVID virus? COVID tests can be divided into 3 categories:

1) PCR for the analysis of live COVID virus DNA. These are the most reliable but the longest to provide results and require the most complex/expensive infrastructure,

2) Serology/antibody analysis, which consists of detecting the antibody produced by the body in response to the viral infection. IgMs are produced around 4 days after infection and remain as long as the body fights the infection followed by IgGs providing immunologic protection;

3) Antigen detection: these are from the virus- they provide detection at the onset of infection- but are difficult to detect.

Here, we selected the serologic approach from antibody detection using the plasma from a drop of blood.

The problem with most antibody tests has been the very high level of false negative- typically up to 1/20. Our strategy was to avoid any false negative, and then work in decreasing the false positive, which we achieved. What are the main findings? 

Response: [ see manuscript for figures]

We have developed a novel, fast and robust Gel card test to detect COVID infection from antibody detection from blood using the current infrastructure available in all blood labs. The test requires 1 drop of blood (50 microL) and provides results in less than 20 min.

The system consists of red blood cells (RBC) functionalized with an antibody (IgG) bioconjugated with peptides specific to the COVID-19 antibody. If the COVID antibody is detected in the blood plasma of the patient, the reagent RBC agglutinate upon adsorption of the bioconjugated peptides, and leave a red mark at the top of the card; for positive. For negative the blood line is at the bottom.

This provides a direct, simple and fast visual response that can easily be automated. What should readers take away from your report?

Response:   A simple, fast, robust diagnostic platform has been developed. This low-cost test uses a drop of blood to detect COVID infection. This platform can easily be modified for other types of virus ( COVID-23) by changing the bioconjugation peptide. We have improved the selectivity of the test by using a combination of peptides. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We need to much better understand the fundamentals of COVID-infection and the virus itself. This is key to efficiently and rapidly develop diagnostics/ treatment and vaccine. Support for fundamental science and engineering is key and must be valued by society. If we have been so efficient and rapid, it is thanks to the expertise and infrastructure we already had. We relied on the open literature to select the bioconjugation peptide.

We have strongly benefited from the excellent spirit of the international and Australian scientific communities.

Another key to our success was to link 3 different teams into a single. During the crisis, once Monash University had closed, we reopened and transfomred BioPRIA into a dedicated institute for COVID work. All the 3 teams became one and all shared labs separated by function. With this unique team spirit, we were able to demonstrate proof of concept in 4 weeks.

Other viral infections and environmental crises will keep coming. Response by politicians has tremendously varied from excellent and heroic (Jacinda Adren, NZ, Engela Merkel, Germany), to shameful and disastrous ( Please pick your example). The international scientific community has been impartial, effective and constantly supported society. This is an institution to value, preserve, trust and rely upon.


Diana Alves, Rodrigo Curvello, Edward Henderson, Vidhishri Kesarwani, Julia A. Walker, Samuel C. Leguizamon, Heather McLiesh, Vikram Singh Raghuwanshi, Hajar Samadian, Erica M. Wood, Zoe K. McQuilten, Maryza Graham, Megan Wieringa, Tony M. Korman, Timothy F. Scott, Mark M. Banaszak Holl, Gil Garnier, Simon R. Corrie.Rapid Gel Card Agglutination Assays for Serological Analysis Following SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Humans.ACS Sensors, 2020; DOI: 10.1021/acssensors.0c01050



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Last Updated on July 21, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD