Singapore medtech company develops portable genetic test for COVID-19

The Quiz PCR Biochips are hot-swappable, meaning that the pairs of tests can run on demand without the waiting time associated with batch processing.
By Dean Koh
12:26 am
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Credit: Cell ID Pte. Ltd.

Singapore-incorporated medtech company Cell ID Pte. Ltd. has developed a palm-sized portable genetic test kit that uses an app on a laptop to detect, anywhere, at any time, if a person has COVID-19. Dubbed the Quiz PCR Biochip, the test uses biotechnology to perform two tests at a time outside of the laboratory.

Positive results are confirmed in as fast as five minutes and negative results are returned within an hour. A QR code on the biochip also offers traceability which allows healthcare providers to quickly identify, and electronically deliver the test results to the person being tested.

HOW IT WORKS

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To operate the test, less than two hours of training is required. The test requires a tiny amount (10µl) of a nasal swab or saliva specimen to be applied to the biochip, which when plugged into a laptop, runs a real-time reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) assay for the qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Two genetic tests are able to run concurrently using the same or different protocol - polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests or RT-LAMP assay.

The efficacy of the biochips has been tested in Singapore in collaboration with local healthcare agencies at two quarantine facilities (EXPO and a foreign workers dormitory) between July and October 2020.

WHY IT MATTERS

Conventional PCR tests can take up to 12-24 hours for COVID-19 positive results to appear, plus it is a laboratory technique and requires laboratory specialists and dedicated medical testing equipment. The Quiz PCR Biochips are hot-swappable, meaning that the pairs of tests can run on demand without the waiting time associated with batch processing.

THE LARGER TREND

UK-based independent technology and product development company, the Technology Partnership Plc (TTP), has developed a new pooled screening technology for COVID-19, which enables screening of large groups, such as school classes and workplaces, using a new approach to pooled screening and ensuring that positive cases are isolated quickly, MobiHealthNews reported.

British startup iAbra has launched a screening device called Virolens, which can deliver COVID-19 test results in 20 seconds and is quicker and cheaper than the currently used PCR tests. 

Earlier in 2020, Singapore-based companies have also developed several COVID-19 test kits: these include the Fortitude Kit SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test, Biolidics Rapid Test kit and Veredus Laboratories’ VereCoV detection kit.

ON THE RECORD

“Quiz PCR Biochips are affordable, single-use genetic tests that can detect COVID-19, anywhere at any time. Currently, we can manufacture 8.5 million biochips in a month, which is 17 million tests,” said Xander Sim, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Cell ID.

“We designed the Quiz PCR Biochip to be free of the cold-chain limitations of conventional tabletop PCR tests found in laboratories,” added Sim. “The Quiz PCR Biochip is capable of thermocycling for PCR tests, as well as single temperature operation for RT-LAMP assay. Our RT-LAMP assay fully meets the 95%CI accuracy standard.” 

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