A Cheaper and More Portable Testing Device for COVID-19 Is in the Works

A team of scientific experts and engineers in the Philippines are attempting to create a more portable and affordable device to run COVID-19 samples, the Department of Science and Technology said on June 8.

The DOST said in a statement that a lack in resources slow down COVID-19 testing: “While national and local efforts to source diagnostic kids have been successful, there is an imminent testing bottleneck in the country due to the lack of capable qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction) instruments on which to run these specialized kits.”

Though antibody rapid test kits are faster, the PCR test is considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing as it can accurately detect if a sample has the COVID-19 virus.

PCR testing reproduces and amplifies the genetic material in samples, detects the sample’s genetic code, then compares it with the code of COVID-19 to see if it’s the same. The PCR test takes hours or days to process, and it can only be done in laboratories, unlike the antibody rapid test kits.

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Several people will be working on the new device. According to DOST, its Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) will aid a team of biologists, clinicians, engineers, and other experts to develop the “Accelerated development of the cost-efficient miroPCR and lateral flow diagnostic system to enable expanded near-point-of-care testing for COVID-19.”

The name’s quite long, but they’ve got a nickname for it: the AMPLiFieD System.

Dr. Jeremie de Guzman, Dr. Keith Moore, and Mr. Ricardo Jose S. Guerrero, PhD candidate from the Ateneo Research Institute for Science and Engineering (ARISE) will spearhead the project.

The AMPLiFieD System will integrate two of DOST-PCHRD’s projects: the miPCR Project and the ADDS Project.

“If successful, AMPLiFieD could provide a functional alternative to commercial qPCR instruments at a significantly lower cost and much smaller size,” the DOST statement said.

Moreover, the success of the new system could lead to more cost-effective and distributed laboratories nationwide to aid in COVID-19 testing.

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