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Genetic science research

Mason virologist helping find ways to better diagnose the coronavirus

A Mason School of Systems Biology professor is part of a research team that has received a $250,000 grant from the Schmidt Futures to explore and develop new ways to better diagnose the coronavirus.

The grant will help Mason virologist Kylene Kehn-Hall and her colleagues from Ceres Nanosciences Inc., create the next generation of SARS CoV-2 testing. Using Nanotrap® particles from Manassas-based Ceres Nanosciences, Kehn-Hall and her team hope to develop testing that will result in fewer false negative results. Their collective work will help scientists better understand the coronavirus and help in slowing down the spread of the global pandemic.

“As a scientist, you always hope that your work can have a significant and positive impact on society,” said Kehn-Hall, an associate professor in the National Center of Biodefense and Infectious Diseases within Mason’s College of Science. “I am excited about the opportunity to improve COVID-19 detection.”

Mason and Ceres Nanoscience have been collaborating for several years in the hopes of using Nanotrap® technology to better detect common strains of respiratory viruses like influenza, RSV and coronavirus. They began focusing their efforts on the coronavirus in February after it became apparent the disease had made its way out of China.

Robbie Barbero, the chief business officer for Ceres Nanosciences, emphasized their collective research will not make new tests, but instead improve detection methods for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus.

“Our plan is to demonstrate that Nanotrap® technology can improve detection of SARS-CoV-2 across multiple commercially available diagnostic tests, without having to change the tests themselves,” Barbero said. “We hope to have something ready to share with diagnostic testing labs this summer.”