The research team first came together to combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014. When the Zika virus emerged in South America earlier this year, the team realized that much of their Ebola research could be applied to develop a test for the mosquito-borne disease. Within a matter of weeks, the researchers had developed a low cost test that can diagnose the disease in only a couple of hours. The test uses a special piece of paper embedded with synthetic genetic networks that changes colors when it comes into contact with the blood or saliva of an infected individual. The researchers believe that this test can be easily adapted to rapidly develop tests for future pandemics like Zika and Ebola.
“In response to an emerging outbreak, we envision a custom-tailored diagnostic system could be ready for use within one week’s time,” said Wyss faculty member James Collins. “We are currently pursuing multiple opportunities to secure private and public funding in order to commercialize this diagnostic system and make it available to the world’s health responders.”
The New England Council applauds the innovative work Harvard, BU, and MIT are doing to combat the Zika virus.