Sometimes things get personal when it comes to research.
For Chris Le at the University of Alberta it became personal when two of his friends in Wuhan, China contracted COVID-19. One recovered and one died. Le was already working on new technology to detect toxic environmental substances so when the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
put out the call for rapid response research ideas to deal with COVID-19 he had the lab, the experience, and the motivation to submit a proposal. The proposal earned him an $828,000 grant to develop an accurate and faster point-of-care diagnostic test for COVID-19.
The most commonly used test right now extracts RNA from a nose or throat swab. Such a small amount of RNA requires time and specialized equipment to duplicate and amplify the sample in order to detect the virus. Using the latest nanotechnology, genome technology and advances in molecular biology, Le believes he can develop a test that can be done in a doctor's office, community centre, or a rural village. The results would be available within an hour at a comparable cost to current testing methods.
Freelance broadcaster Don Hill talked to Chris Le about his work, the timeline the team is aiming for, and about his personal connection to the research.