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Diagnostics Analytical science, COVID-19, Microbiology and immunology, Technology and innovation

Putting MS to the (COVID-19) Test

When we talk about the power of mass spectrometry (MS) testing, it can be easy to overlook (or forget) the challenges involved in translating a promising approach to the clinical lab. And, in the context of COVID-19, MS already has strong competition: real-time RT-PCR offers impressive sensitivity and specificity and lateral flow tests are tough to beat on speed and cost. So is there any room for MS in the fight against this pandemic – and those of the future?

Leading mass spectrometrists think so! And despite the hurdles ahead of translation (from training personnel to proving the robustness of the tests themselves), Perdita Barran and her team at The University of Manchester, UK, managed to achieve the feat in just four months within the UK National Health Service (NHS). Here, Perdita offers us a unique insight into the project’s journey from academic to clinical labs. We also speak to Maarten Dhaenens and Jennifer van Eyk (both external advisors on the project) about the diagnostic value of MS and its impact beyond COVID-19 testing.

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About the Authors

Lauren Robertson

By the time I finished my degree in Microbiology I had come to one conclusion – I did not want to work in a lab. Instead, I decided to move to the south of Spain to teach English. After two brilliant years, I realized that I missed science, and what I really enjoyed was communicating scientific ideas – whether that be to four-year-olds or mature professionals. On returning to England I landed a role in science writing and found it combined my passions perfectly. Now at Texere, I get to hone these skills every day by writing about the latest research in an exciting, creative way.


Perdita Barran

Professor of Mass Spectrometry at the University of Manchester, UK.


Jennifer Van Eyk

Jennifer Van Eyk is Director of the Advanced Clinical Biosystems Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Maarten Dhaenens

Researcher in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences & ProGenTomics, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.

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