Development of chemically modified probes for robust molecular diagnostics

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the public need for molecular diagnostic tools to identify pathogen panels through nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT). Many clinical labs worldwide have now established infrastructures for routine molecular assays using classic quantitative PCR (qPCR). In order to further advance this – now routine – tool for in vitro diagnostics (IVD), it has become imperative to develop underlying technologies for robust, specific, and sensitive detection of pathogens, namely next-generation oligonucleotide probes. Hence, this project introduces a novel strategy for the development of chemically-modified probes based on intercalating nucleic acids (INAs) and DNAzymes. Discovery of optimized probes is accomplished through identification and selection from candidate pools through “DNA encoded” tags or barcodes. Resulting probes should in turn be compatible with existing workflows and qPCR instrumentation for fluorescent signal detection of a pathogenic target-of-interest or multiplex target panels, such as respiratory or gastrointestinal gene panels.

Daniel Saliba
Faculty Supervisor: 
Hanadi Sleiman;Maureen McKeague
Partner University: