A robotic testing platform developed in just nine days by UK DRI researchers could substantially increase the UK’s capacity to test people for coronavirus.
Prof Paul Freemont and colleagues from the UK DRI Care Research & Technology centre developed the platform by repurposing high-throughput, robotic technology usually used to test for infections in vulnerable people such as those living with dementia.
Identifying and tracking the spread of virus will be a critical factor in efforts to slow the outbreak. Currently, around 10,000 tests for coronavirus are being done each day in the UK, with the government aiming to increase this to 100,000 per day by the end of April.
Each of the robotic modules developed has the capability to process almost 1,000 coronavirus samples in a 12-hour period. The system employs the same test being used by the NHS, but is able to process many more samples at once and, unlike other systems, can use a range of different reagents. The platform is being accredited and approved, and last week began testing samples at two NHS hospitals in London, which have one robotic module each. Having successfully completed validation on 251 real-life samples in blind testing, the platform began testing patient samples yesterday (6 April). It is now ready to be rolled out on a much larger scale, for which the UK DRI is now looking for support.