IonID™: An Innovative Platform Disease Diagnostic
Ionica Sciences was founded by Dr. Omar Green and Dr. Joel Tabb in 2013 and is headquartered at the McGovern Center, the biotechnology incubator on Cornell University’s campus in Ithaca, NY.
Ionica Sciences has developed a platform disease diagnostic, IonID, that has the flexibility to detect vector borne, sexually transmitted, and neurological diseases, among others. Combining well established spectroscopic methods, new materials tailored for use in this setting, and statistical methods, Ionica Sciences’ approach has the potential to change how many diseases are diagnosed.
How Does the IonID Platform Work?
Ionica Sciences’ IonID platform is composed of three parts:
- A laser based Raman spectrometer
- A metal surface with specific characteristics (a surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) surface or substrate)
- An aptamer designed to detect proteins associated with the target disease in a complex biological matrix
To repurpose the assay, only one of the three parts, the aptamer, needs to be replaced, adjusting the targeting of one disease-related protein to another. Aptamer development typically takes 2-3 months and their incorporation into the assay is routine, giving IonID the potential to change how many diseases are diagnosed. This approach is currently being utilized to adapt the IonID platform from IonLyme to IonCOVID (NSF funding pending).
First Application for the IonID Platform
Our first test, IonLyme™, specifically addresses Lyme disease, the fastest growing vector borne disease in the United States, and a growing problem globally.
IonLyme: Detecting Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector borne disease in the United States, leading to more than 300,000 infections in the US per year, according to the CDC. Current tests for Lyme disease as well as other tick borne illnesses, such Babesiosis, Ehlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis, have a host of problems including high false negative rates, and the inability to detect infection until weeks after exposure. Ionica Sciences’ rapid, high sensitivity detection assay detects Lyme disease and other tick borne infections from a single drop of blood. Greatly improving upon existing Lyme disease diagnostic tests, IonLyme provides earlier diagnoses with significantly greater accuracy.
Future Applications for the IonID Platform
Upon demonstrating the principle of the IonID platform with a successful launch of IonLyme, Ionica Sciences intends to rapidly expand the diseases that can be identified using their cutting edge technology.
Covid-19 (NSF funding awarded)
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought multiple countries and their economies to a grinding halt. The response in the United States has been hampered by a lack of adequate, rapid testing. Current testing relies on complicated methods that are prone to contamination and are inappropriate for field use. Many issues associated with the spread of COVID-19 relate to the lack of efficient testing. Further, the currently utilized assay has a lag between collection of samples and the return of results, as well as delivers a high number of false positive results. Ionica Sciences is developing the IonCOVID™ test, which will identify the presence of the SARS-CoV-2-realted proteins directly from nasal swabs or saliva samples.
Mosquito Borne Viruses
Mosquito borne viral diseases rank among the most common and most rapidly spreading vector borne diseases on the planet. Globally, over 390 million individuals are infected with Dengue virus each year. Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever viruses are all rapidly spreading around the globe. The current globally health emergency caused by the spread of Zika virus demonstrates the scale of the problem. Infections caused by these viruses often display similar symptoms, including rash, muscle and joint pain, and headaches. Rapid detection and discrimination of Mosquito borne viruses will be essential in combating the morbidity and mortality caused by these diseases. Ionica Sciences is creating a suite of rapid, high sensitivity antigen-based assays to detect these viruses in human serum, urine, or saliva.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases are quickly returning as a major health threat, especially among adolescents, young adults, and the MSM community. There have been significant increases in rates of chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea, the latter two diseases demonstrating double digit increases for two years in a row. The rapid increase in gonorrhea is particularly concerning since treatment options are dwindling with the increase in drug resistant strains of the disease. These increases, coupled with a decrease in accessibility to health care for the communities that are most at risk, make effective screening imperative. The CDC recommends screening annually, if not more frequently, for women younger than 25, and members of the MSM community. Rapid screening of sufferers who demonstrate no outward symptoms is particularly important so that they can be identified and treated before spreading these diseases unknowingly. To serve this dire need, Ionica Sciences will develop a panel of tests that will allow rapid identification of these diseases and facilitate slowing their spread.