San Diego based, Grolltex, in conjunction with La Jolla’s Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, is developing a versatile, flexible virus testing platform that could be used to test for the COVID 19 virus, using hand held reader units and disposable plastic testing chips, at U.S. points of entry, field hospitals or any remote or point of care location. A system like this could be instrumental to understanding and significantly restricting the spread of the COVID 19 and other existing and emerging viruses.
Graphene sensors have been shown for several years to be capable of advanced detection and testing in fields such as genomics, small molecule-protein receptor interactions and advanced allergen sensing as well as virus detection, including Zika. New scientific literature out just last week also shows a robust capability for a graphene-based sensor to detect the COVID 19 virus.
“When we saw the COVID 19 virus detection work come out in the literature, showing sensitive and selective detection with a graphene sensor, we knew we had to jump on this project.”, said Jeff Draa, CEO of Grolltex. “Productization and roll out of a sensor like this is right in our technology wheelhouse. We’re very thankful for the quick response of the folks at Sanford Burnham with their help on the science and testing. It would take many more months, maybe even years, without them”.
Grolltex (for ‘graphene-rolling-technologies’) is an advanced materials and sensor company using patents and technology developed by co-founder, Dr. Aliaksandr Zaretski, starting back when he was a grad student at UCSD. Even the initial seed round to get the company going came from The Triton Fund, a UCSD backed venture project that invests in university spin outs, with subsequent funding coming from San Diego’s Tech Coast Angels and other local investors. And so far, all the senior technical employees are alums of the Jacobs School of Engineering, at UCSD.
As for the project, the ‘graphene sensor chip on plastic’ platform is micro-fluidically plumbed, meaning it requires only a very small biological sample (measured in nano-liters) and it is also ‘multiplexed’ meaning it can perform 4-12, or more, viral tests all at one time, providing results that may indicate the presence of a ‘normal’ flu bug vs. COIVD 19 or other serious pathogens. It is also plumbed with a number of ‘control’ channels, eliminating time consuming verification steps and helping to provide answers in minutes.
The sensor employs monolayer graphene, a single atom thick layer material that is generally acknowledged as being the most sensitive, best suited biosensing material currently available for advanced life science sensing needs. On top of the graphene, the company places additional proprietary and patented nanotechnology that Dr. Zaretski discovered while at UCSD, including a unique sensing capability made of ‘gold nano-islands’. Using the Grolltex industrial-scale graphene manufacturing platform, these sensing chips can be made for pennies each and in arrays of about 10,000 per single square foot sheet, 100 sheets at a time.
The next job, according to Draa, is to find a local partner or investor to help scale this testing platform. “We currently have our hands full with several prototyping efforts in place in other areas, ranging from glucose detection in saliva to a wearable blood pressure monitor in a patch configuration. But when the Sanford Burnham folks volunteered the science help on this COVID virus detection platform, we knew we had to jump on it”, said Draa.
“Today we don’t have the bandwidth to roll this virus detection platform out, once the science is done.”, said Draa. “We’re still a small start-up so we’re looking for a financial or resource partner to help us get this up to volume and in the right hands. We know we’re in one of the best locations in the U.S. for an effort like this so once we make the partnering connections, the ramp will be fast”.
Grolltex, Inc., is a nanotechnology materials, products and equipment company focusing on the optimization and advancement of the key monolayer material ‘graphene’ and related 2D materials. The company holds a number of strategic patents and technological advantages in areas relating to the manufacture of high quality, monolayer ‘CVD’ graphene and hexagonal Boron Nitride as well as on several advanced products made of graphene and 2D materials, such as hyper efficient solar cells, next generation sensors, advanced fuel cells and futuristic super-thin and flexible sensors for use in wearables, smart phones and other electronics.
Grolltex is a practitioner of, and specializes in, exclusively sustainable graphene production methods and is committed to advancing the field of graphene to improve the future of leading-edge materials science and product design through the optimization of single atom thick materials.