Filipino doctor and professor wins NIH grant for smartphone-based COVID-19 rapid test


    The National Institute of Health (NIH) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one of the world’s leading biomedical research agencies, awarded Filipino Dr. Rhoel David Ramos Dinglasan, PhD, MPH, MPhil and his colleagues-researchers with a prestigious national grant for their CLIP-CAM, a rapid smartphone-based saliva test for coronavirus (COVID-19) detection.

    Dr. Dinglasan, a professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Southeastern Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, was among the six tapped for the very first Technology Accelerator Challenge by the NIH National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

    The task encouraged the researchers to provide a solution that are accessible, of low cost, and are portable via mobile device and granted a total of $1,000,000 for the development of the winning platform concepts and prototypes. Dr. Dinglasan’s crew received US$200,000 which they will utilize for prototype development and production for public consumption.

    Dr. Dinglasan was approached by California-based start-up company Luminostics CEO Bala Raja, Ph.D. to collaborate on the challenge after reading the interdisciplinary medical journal Science Translational Medicine on the team’s report about their saliva-based rapid diagnostic test for malaria.

    Through the joint effort, the CLIP-CAM smartphone adapter initially designed by the group to test for malaria and anemia was modified to be able to also test for COVID-19. The user can easily submit a saliva sample and the results will be available in 15 minutes or less.

    “The idea is more people can now use an app on your iPhone, with our adapter, with our test, and basically get tested within half an hour from the comfort of their own home,” expounded Dr. Dinglasan in an earlier interview. “The fact that the cellphone allows for rapid communication of results by text or by email changes the way we can report in real-time.”

    Dr. Dinglasan believes that the test will leverage existing technology to fill a crucial need in global public health as it allows differentiation between the three diseases that present similar symptoms. He stressed that the proper diagnosis delivered in minutes could save lives.