A paper-based diagnostic test for Covid-19

A variety of MIT research projects could aid efforts to detect and prevent the spread of coronavirus.


There is an urgent need for fast, easy-to-use diagnostic tests for Coronavirus as the cases rapidly spreading around the world. Scientists around the world rush to develop effective coronavirus vaccines.

A startup company- E25Bio spun out from MIT, is currently working on a paper-based test that can convey results in under 30 minutes.

The technology behind the new E25Bio diagnostic was developed by Lee Gehrke, the Hermann L.F. von Helmholtz Professor at IMES, and other members of his lab, including Irene Bosch, a former IMES research scientist who is now the CTO of E25Bio.

The tests consist of strips of paper that are coated with antibodies that bind to a specific viral protein. A second antibody is connected to gold nanoparticles, and the patient’s sample is added to a solution of those particles. The test strip is then dipped in the solution. On the off chance that the viral protein is present, it connects to the antibodies on the paper strip just as the nanoparticle-bound antibodies, and a colored spot appears on the strip inside 20 minutes.

Gehrke said, “Our hope is that, similar to other tests that we’ve developed, this will be usable on the day that symptoms develop. We don’t have to wait for antibodies to the virus to come up.”

The startup is now preparing to submit it to the FDA for “emergency use authorization,” which would grant temporary approval for using the device on patient samples during public health emergencies.

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants the emergency authorization, E25Bio could start testing the diagnostic with patient samples, which they haven’t been able to do yet.

Gehrke said, “If those are successful, then the next step would be to talk about using it for actual clinical diagnosis.”