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KAUST researchers work with Saudi hospitals to test novel approaches for early pathogen identification

“My aim is to make doctors’ jobs easier and diagnosis as fast as possible by providing a new technology to replace conventional laboratory tests. Our goal is to make these sensors available to clinicians so that they can get data to diagnose diseases faster.”


Sahika Inal, Associate Professor of Bioengineering

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of KAUST researchers has been collaborating closely with medical professionals to improve their disease detection capabilities. The teams of KAUST professors Sahika Inal and Stefan Arold are now working in partnership with clinicians at the King Faisal Specialist

“We were delighted with the novelty, sensitivity and accuracy of the diagnostic approach brought to us by KAUST researchers. Such technology should also help ensure that the world is better prepared for future pandemics.”

Ashraf Dada, Doctor of Pathology, KFSH&RC

Hospital and Research Center (KFSH&RC) to better understand the hospital’s needs and provide low-cost, accurate and rapid tests for pathogen detection.

Inal’s research at KAUST focuses on the design of sensors using biological components to recognize certain disease biomarkers in a single sample taken from a patient. She aims to make the job of doctors easier and improve diagnoses by replacing conventional laboratory tests with effective new testing technologies. This innovative solution can support rapid disease diagnosis and could be used by healthcare professionals to improve services in low-income countries, as well as in remote communities with limited access to medical care and resources.

During the pandemic, Inal started work with KAUST Professor of Bioscience Stefan Arold to develop electronic chips that can detect the presence of COVID-19 from saliva samples. Their chips are close in sensitivity to conventional PCR tests and provide results in 15 minutes. To test the technology for its suitability in a clinical setting and to validate the accuracy of their sensors, the professors contacted experts at Saudi hospitals.

Researchers at KFSH&RC provided Inal and Arold with samples and compared the results to those from conventional testing techniques. They then shared their results with their KAUST collaborators, allowing the teams of Inal and Arold to validate the innovative technology.

Following the trials on the COVID-19 sensors, the KAUST team continued to collaborate with KFSH&RC to gain deeper insights into doctors’ needs and provide them with tailored solutions. They hope to expand the potential of bioelectronic sensors to enhance rapid disease detection. By working directly with clinicians, the KAUST researchers can better understand the day-to-day routine of hospital workers and the tools that could improve their workflow. This process has made their research relevant in a real-world setting, helping other researchers respond to widely reported challenges in the healthcare system.

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