MS-based Sars-Cov-2 protein detection in patients (Cov-MS): a fruitful community effort

Rising population density and global mobility enabled a very rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 across the planet. The policy response to such pandemics will always have to include accurate monitoring. However, COVID-19 diagnosis is currently performed almost exclusively by RT-PCR. Although efficient, automatable and acceptably cheap, it is not justified for the world to rely on only one technology. We therefore developed an orthogonal diagnostic test that detects SARS-CoV-2 proteins using mass spectrometry (MS), relying on widely available reagents, as well as currently idle personnel and instruments. To assure wide applicability, the 8-minute MRM-assay developed in-house was further optimized in the Cov-MS consortium, consisting of >10 different labs and industrial partners. Therefore, we provided them with an SOP, an open source software template (Skyline) and a sample kit. Now, the assay is ready for dissemination to clinically associated labs.

Maarten Dhaenens (ProGenTomics, Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Ghent University)

Maarten Dhaenens received a Master’s degree in Zoology from Ghent University, Belgium, in 2002. Following an additional masters in Medical Molecular Biotechnology he joined the lab of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology where he became executive principle investigator of the proteomics department when he finished his PhD in 2011. The lab has since focused on the mass spectrometry-based study of histone epigenetic dynamics, the so-called “histone code”, with a special interest in data-independent acquisition MS on QTOF designs since 2013 (both SWATH and HDMSE). In 2017 he founded ProGenTomics, a proteomics service lab specialized in histone analysis. Maarten was founding president of the European Young Proteomics Investigators Club (YPIC) in 2016 and became president of the Belgian Proteomics Association (BePA) in 2018. He has a significant track record in method development and recently started advocating good experimental practices in proteomics as the new managing Editor of EuPA Open Proteomics (Elsevier). The recent Sars-Cov-2 outbreak abruptly changed the course of his research to developing an MS-based diagnostic assay that detects Sars-Cov-2 proteins in patients. Once this test is clinically implemented, he aims to go back to his core interest, i.e. unravelling the complexity of the histone code.