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Emory students and researchers develop mobile phone diagnostic for COVID-19

A team of students and researchers at Emory University has developed a technology that could enable the detection of COVID-19 via mobile phone.

The technology involves rolling DNA motors that can carry and move small particles around on a surface. In the lab of Emory chemistry professor Khalid Salaita, the research team created a system that freezes the motor when a virus is present. To detect such a small movement, the team developed a microscope based on an unlikely device — a laser pointer cat toy.

Graduate student Kevin Yehl believed a plastic lens would suffice for a microscope, so he picked up the toy from a local CVS, disassembled it, extracted the lens and taped it to his phone camera. The home-built setup worked, detecting moving particles just like a microscope.

The team developed that initial model into a mobile COVID-19 diagnostic tool with real-world commercial potential. Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer assisted the team in filing a full patent for the technology and created a commercial evaluation report to help guide it to the marketplace.

“This [project] has really taken a life of its own,” Yehl says. “It has been very successful and that’s just really gratifying. I think it goes to show what vision, creativity and hard work can produce.”

Source: Emory Office of Technology Transfer

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