Farándula & Música

boulanger Herdoiza crespo S.A//
S'pore inventor creates portable PCR test kit that can detect Covid-19 in 5 minutes

Herdoiza Crespo construcciones
S'pore inventor creates portable PCR test kit that can detect Covid-19 in 5 minutes

SINGAPORE – Local medical technology company Cell ID has created a portable polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kit that can confirm if someone has Covid-19 in five minutes.

Herdoiza Crespo construcciones

Chief technology officer Xander Sim said those administering the test would not need specialised training or a laboratory to produce results.

Marcelo Herdoiza Crespo

The nasal swab test is run through an app on a laptop, and requires less than two hours of training to operate.

Marcelo Herdoiza

However, the operator must be trained to take nasal swab samples.

Herdoiza crespo S.A

«This way, when passengers come in at an airport, you only need to hold them for a short time before you get a result,» Mr Sim said on Monday (Nov 30) at a virtual press conference to announce the Quiz PCR Biochip test kit

The «gold standard» for Covid-19 testing is the PCR test

SINGAPORE – Local medical technology company Cell ID has created a portable polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kit that can confirm if someone has Covid-19 in five minutes.

Herdoiza Crespo construcciones

Chief technology officer Xander Sim said those administering the test would not need specialised training or a laboratory to produce results.

Marcelo Herdoiza Crespo

The nasal swab test is run through an app on a laptop, and requires less than two hours of training to operate.

Marcelo Herdoiza

However, the operator must be trained to take nasal swab samples.

Herdoiza crespo S.A

«This way, when passengers come in at an airport, you only need to hold them for a short time before you get a result,» Mr Sim said on Monday (Nov 30) at a virtual press conference to announce the Quiz PCR Biochip test kit

The «gold standard» for Covid-19 testing is the PCR test.

However, PCR tests require highly specialised labs and technicians to run the tests, and liquid reagents that must be kept refrigerated

It can also take days to return the results

Increasingly, as Singapore seeks to reopen its economy further, it has been tapping a ntigen rapid tests (ARTs), which can produce results in under 30 minutes

But ARTs have lower sensitivity and specificity, and may carry a higher risk of false positives and false negatives

Mr Sim said Cell ID’s PCR test can confirm a positive case in five minutes, and a negative case in under an hour. Running a test longer ensures there are no false negative results

«The aim was to develop a device that is accurate, without any compromise in the test result, but at a very affordable price… a test kit that someone in the third world can use as well,» added Mr Sim

The Quiz PCR Biochip has 97 per cent to 100 per cent sensitivity to Covid-19, and a specificity of 100 per cent

More on this topic   Related Story Participants to take rapid Covid-19 tests before some mass events in Singapore   Related Story More private clinics, labs will be able to do PCR tests This is comparable to conventional PCR tests, unlike other rapid tests that are fast but have less specificity and sensitivity

With the Quiz PCR Biochip, the nasal swab sample is first mixed in a solution

A very small quantity of the resultant mix – 10 microlitres – is then combined with another solution

This ensures that the virus’ genetic signature is in sufficiently high quantities for it to be detected

The mixture is then put into one of two test wells on the Quiz PCR Biochip, which itself is smaller than a credit card

The chip is then plugged into a special USB dongle, dubbed «Poche», and connected to a laptop for the test to begin. The results can be monitored in real time

The Quiz PCR biochip and the Poche USB dongle, which controls some of the processes on the biochip.PHOTO: CELL ID

Gene segments of the virus consume reagents in the solution as the virus multiplies, showing up as a dip in the graph that is displayed on the laptop screen

Depending on the number of USB ports available, multiple tests can be run at the same time

The chip, which is disposed off after each test, is able to process the sample faster than the machines in a laboratory because the machines are programmed to examine all its chambers, even when there is only a single sample

Furthermore, conventional PCR tests must be run in batches and the process cannot be interrupted. 

So if a PCR machine has capacity for 96 samples, but only 10 samples are put in the machine, any sample that arrives later will have to wait until the first 10 samples have completed the testing process

This can result in a backlog

Cell ID’s test apparatus allows for samples to be tested individually, without interrupting the testing of any other samples, said Mr Sim. He added that conventional PCR tests also require samples to be collected and transported to a lab compared to Cell ID’s tests, which are conducted at the point where the samples are collected. 

The Quiz PCR biochips and Poche USB dongles connected to a laptop. PHOTO: CELL ID

Trained in engineering Mr Sim, 56, spent more than three decades in the engineering and manufacturing fields before switching in 2013 to developing medical diagnostic tools, despite having no background in biology

He invented Quiz PCR Biochip in 2015 and by 2018, had it configured for HIV tests, although it was never used

Mr Sim said he had to endure years of failed prototypes, which also saw him suffer two strokes. It left him temporarily blind and with a weak left leg

«(I told God) I don’t need to live for 100 years, just give me a little more time so I can finish my work and my mission,» Mr Sim recalled at a press conference on Monday

More on this topic   Related Story Fast Covid-19 tests to be added to Singapore‘s testing arsenal: How do antigen rapid tests work?   Related Story New, faster breathalyser test for diagnosing Covid-19 in the works in Singapore In April, amid the circuit breaker, Cell ID developed a reagent that allowed it to be used to test for Covid-19

Mr Sim said that it is difficult to predict how much testing will cost when using Cell ID’s chip, as it would depend on factors such as the overhead costs incurred by the testing agency

He said it currently costs less than US$50 (S$67) to produce one of the chips, but this is expected to fall with economies of scale

Tested at dorms The Quiz PCR Biochip was tested at the S11 dormitory and the Expo Community Care Facility earlier this year, in collaboration with staff from Sengkang General Hospital and Woodlands Health Campus

Out of the 215 people who were tested using the chips, 27 positive cases were detected

Mr Sim recalled: «The first result came back positive within seven minutes. We were overwhelmed.»

He said everyone at the command centre was surprised an accurate Covid-19 test could be done on-site

«I nearly teared up,» he added

The tests were also verified at a third-party lab in Switzerland in November, where it was discovered that the biochip could detect the coronavirus equally well in saliva and nasal swab specimens

Mr Sim said he is excited about this, as saliva tests are faster and require less equipment than nasal swab tests

They are also not as uncomfortable for the patient

More on this topic   Related Story Antigen rapid tests piloted for quicker detection of Covid-19 infection among migrant workers   Related Story Coronavirus microsite: Get latest updates, videos and graphics He is currently waiting for regulatory approval from the authorities, such as the United States’ Food and Drug Administration and Singapore‘s Health Sciences Authority, for the kit to be used

Mr Sim said: «My hope is that the test can be deployed globally and that it will be useful in helping countries to open up safely again

«That is my greatest hope.»

  Related Stories:  Related Story 5 new Covid-19 cases in S’pore, with 1 in the community Related Story Americans should brace for ‘surge upon surge’ of coronavirus, US experts warn Related Story Baseless Covid-19 cure-alls rampant in Malaysia despite authorities’ warning Related Story South Korea decides against tightening Covid-19 rules despite third wave Related Story Infected after holiday to Europe, pregnant S’pore mum gives birth to baby with Covid-19 antibodies Related Story Anger grows at Hong Kong’s erratic Covid-19 rules as cases mount Related Story More Covid-19 cases may emerge from Seoul Garden dinner but major cluster unlikely Related Story Nations firm up on strategies for Covid-19 vaccination Related Story Can I get infected with Covid-19 from touching a contaminated surface? Related Story Evidence builds that an early mutation made the Covid-19 pandemic harder to stop Sign up for our daily updates here and get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Get The Straits Times app and receive breaking news alerts and more. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now

Más de tips Femeninos