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Subspecialties COVID-19, Microbiology and immunology, Point of care testing, Technology and innovation

Business in Brief: COVID-19

Information Exchange

The UK’s National Health Service has issued an adoption directive instructing all laboratories to use the National Pathology Exchange (NPEx) for electronic transfer of COVID-19 test requests and results. The aim of 100 percent adoption is to minimize manual processes and the resulting potential for errors and delays (1).

A Digital Blood Count

A new “dry” analyzer needs only two drops of blood to return a complete blood count. OLO first digitizes blood samples by taking over 1,000 images, then automates cell identification and counting. The device is well-suited to quarantine settings in which it can be used to assess the health of COVID-19 patients (2).

Aid From AI

A new artificial intelligence tool that analyzes X-ray images and helps healthcare professionals manage patients with COVID-19 can be accessed for free by hospitals and academic institutes around the globe. Thirona and Delft Imaging launched CAD4COVID to help triage infected patients by indicating affected lung tissue with an abnormality score between 0 and 100 (3).

Trial Tracker

A new COVID-19 global clinical trial tracker has been launched to improve collaboration between researchers, clinicians, philanthropists, policymakers, and other critical stakeholders. The live dashboard details hundreds of ongoing trials, indicating the most promising efforts and helping decision-makers to channel resources appropriately (4).

Remote Pathology

Healthcare institutions that want to provide their staff with flexibility during the pandemic can benefit from a free remote pathology initiative. Inspirata, Hamamatsu, and KiKo Knowledge Hub are combining to provide a comprehensive pathology workflow solution, a research-use-only whole-slide image scanner, and a scanning and processing service, respectively (5).

A Binding Discovery

Multiple highly specific Affimer reagents that bind to the spike proteins of SARS-CoV-2 virus have been successfully generated. These binders do not cross-react with other closely related viruses and will now be characterized by Avacta to develop a laboratory test for the SARS-CoV-2 antigen. Cytiva will simultaneously use the Affimer reagents to develop a rapid point-of-care test strip (6).

Test at Home

India’s first rapid COVID-19 test kit has been launched by Bangalore-based company Bione. Available for order online, the tests can be completed at home and provide results within 15–20 minutes using an alcohol swab and a lancet to obtain a blood sample. The company can currently supply up to 20,000 kits per week (7).

A Rise in Reagent

PCR Biosystems has increased the manufacture of qPCRBIO Probe 1-Step Go, a universal probe kit for rapid RT-qPCR. This scaled-up production now allows the supply of 4,000,000 reactions’ worth of reagent every day, ensuring that neither UK nor global demand for testing is held back by a lack of critical reagents (8).

The Antigen Angle

A new partnership aims to increase SARS-CoV-2 antigen manufacturing to produce diagnostic tests that can confirm past infection. OXGENE and The Native Antigen Company are working on the scalable production of viral proteins in mammalian cells using a proprietary adenoviral expression vector (9).

A Readiness Package

Kenyan clinics and pharmacies in peri-urban areas can receive an affordable readiness package to help small health facilities respond to COVID-19. A self-assessment chatbot, clinic-based triage tools for symptom checking, and digital symptom checkers are included in the packages created by Ilara Health, who hope to ease the burden on national facilities (10).

Creating a Lab Network

The COVID-19 Volunteer Testing Network has been launched in the UK to increase testing capacity to frontline healthcare workers. The initiative helps small laboratories with the right equipment and personnel to convert and run testing, which is hoped will expand capacity by tens of thousands of additional tests per day (11).

Precise Analysis

An analytics platform for complex genomic, clinical, phenotypic, and epidemiological data to generate insights into COVID-19 has been made freely available. The precisionlife platform can analyze datasets of over 100,000 patients and helps to assess genomic and multi-omic signals associated with differential host response and disease severity (12).

A Virtual Lab

Disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on oncology routine clinical practice, in turn affecting patients living with cancer. OncoDNA has recently offered free access to its Clinical Decision Support software, which allows clinicians to report and share patient cases remotely. The aim is to connect laboratories, pathologists, and oncologists through a virtual lab (13).

Live Action

One hundred mini live-cell imaging systems will be donated to researchers in high containment labs around the world. CytoSMART’s live-cell microscope films living cell cultures without disturbing their growth or behavior – and it is hoped the systems will reduce the huge workload currently facing researchers working on COVID-19 (14). Labs can apply for the Lux2 live-cell imager at tp.txp.to/LiveCellImager.

COVID-19 Cloud

PatientSource is offering a refined version of their Electronic Patient Record software for free to healthcare providers around the world. With services hitting critical levels, the software uses patient trackers and ward whiteboard tools that are attuned to COVID-19 patients to quickly identify the most critical patients (15).

Speedy Samples

Testing in the UK will be supported by the availability of a state-of-the-art liquid handling machine. The Tecan Freedom EVO 100 will help automate and accelerate sample analysis at the first of the UK Government’s new Lighthouse Labs in Milton Keynes. The machine, provided by Sygnature Group, automates the pipetting of multiple samples, enhancing sample throughput (16).

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  1. NPEx (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/2SccEOk.
  2. Sight Diagnostics (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/2UFqeeK.
  3. Delft Imaging (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/3eMIj2v.
  4. Global Coronavirus COVID-19 Clinical Trial Tracker (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/3aAWTqq.
  5. Cision PR Newswire (2020). Available at https://prn.to/3awLRm3.
  6. BioSpace (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/3cHcG8I.
  7. Global Data (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/3eNIvyA.
  8. PCR Biosystems (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/352xc19.
  9. Press release (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/2Vy2QjJ.
  10. Africa Science News (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/2VTthiL.
  11. COVID-19 Volunteer Testing Network (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/3bFM5ZO.
  12. PrecisionLife (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/2KId4Yy.
  13. OncoDNA (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/3bLIHN3.
  14. Cision PR Newswire (2020). Available: https://prn.to/2KxyUxQ.
  15. Life Science Newswire (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/2zpH5Kl.
  16. Sygnature Discovery (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/3cNz4gW.

About the Author

Luke Turner

While completing my undergraduate degree in Biology, I soon discovered that my passion and strength was for writing about science rather than working in the lab. My master’s degree in Science Communication allowed me to develop my science writing skills and I was lucky enough to come to Texere Publishing straight from University. Here I am given the opportunity to write about cutting edge research and engage with leading scientists, while also being part of a fantastic team!

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