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Harvard Wyss Institute’s nasal swab to facilitate SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic efforts



The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced today that its nasopharyngeal swab and toehold switch technologies have been licensed to Alabama-based Agile Biodetection, which will use them to develop solutions for unmet diagnostic needs in the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in environmental or clinical settings. The licensing agreement was coordinated by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) in accordance with the University’s commitment to the COVID-19 Technology Access Framework.


The Wyss Institute’s nasopharyngeal (nasal) swabs were developed in a multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary group effort led by Wyss Institute Senior Staff Engineer Richard Novak, Ph.D., and the Wyss’ Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., as part of the Institute’s collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Motivated by the serious shortage of swab devices for the collection of nasopharyngeal samples early in the pandemic, the researchers created a simple and effective device with advantages over other designs. The Wyss swab device is fully injection-molded from a single material, and as such, can be mass manufactured in a one-step process that is faster, less expensive, and routinely used by a broad range of experienced medical device manufacturers worldwide. Conventional nasal swabs that are commonly used in infectious disease diagnostic medicine were designed 50 years ago, and are manufactured in two parts from different materials that then need to be assembled, sterilized and packaged in a multi-step process, which requires considerable time and expense. In successful tests performed by academic collaborators and teaching hospitals, the unique nasal swab design was demonstrated to effectively collect SARS-CoV-2 genetic RNA material from the nostrils of patients and to be more comfortable than existing commercial products.


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