Dounia Cherkaoui is a PhD student in the McKendry group at UCL. Currently working on a molecular test for COVID-19, Dounia's research interests include molecular and antigen tests, point-of-care diagnostics, infectious diseases, and tropical diseases. In our short interview, Dounia shares her role within i-sense and how she quickly adapted her work to help with the response to COVID-19.
What does your role at i-sense involve?
I develop point-of-care diagnostic tests for infectious diseases focusing on improving accessibility to highly accurate diagnostic tests that can be performed in low-resource settings. I aim to make diagnostic tests more widely accessible, especially in low- and middle-income countries, eliminating the need for expensive instruments or extensive laboratory training.
How has your role changed/adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
When COVID-19 was discovered, we started developing a rapid molecular test for the emerging virus, using i-sense cutting edge diagnostic technologies. Then COVID-19 became a major public health issue, thus I focused my effort on the development of a rapid molecular test as I wanted to participate in the global effort to find new tools to face this pandemic.
What other disciplines do you collaborate with to conduct your research?
I collaborated with experts in Biochemistry in the i-sense consortium who helped me with nanoparticles and antibody chemistry, working together to build an antigen test for Ebola virus. I was also glad to learn from our mobile app developers how to code and design smartphone applications that can be helpful to use with portable diagnostic tests.
What has been the most exciting project you’ve worked on in your career so far?
Developing a molecular test for a new emerging virus like COVID-19 was a very exciting project. Although working in the lab during lockdown was a challenge, being able to research and build a diagnostic test to respond in real-time to a worldwide crisis was definitely a unique experience.
Tell us something you enjoy outside of your research…
Outside of research I like to travel and volunteer. I have done fundraising and awareness events for Médecins sans Frontières and I am currently a cofounder for a charity that will run educational programmes in STEM and English for young migrants and refugees in London.