WATERFORD SCIENTISTS AWARDED FUNDING TO SPEED UP COVID-19 TESTING

Page View:2020-07-09 15:47:15
A team of scientists from WIT’s Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) and Eco-Innovation Research Centre (EIRC) have teamed up with University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and WIT-spin out company BioEnz Technologies Ltd. to improve the speed of COVID-19 testing.

However the PCR step is slow and can take over two hours. We aim to speed this up and bring the time down to under 30 minutes.


“The most reliable COVID-19 tests use a technique called polymerase chain reaction or PCR,” explained Dr Coffey. “The virus is cracked open and the genetic material or RNA is extracted. This is then copied over and over using PCR until it can be detected. However the PCR step is slow and can take over two hours. We aim to speed this up and bring the time down to under 30 minutes. We also plan to validate the method on a wider range of equipment, thereby increasing the number of labs capable of testing for COVID-19. With the expertise in the team coming together from WIT, UHW and BIOENZ, we can trial thousands of better test options as quickly as possible.”
 

The team will be led by Dr Lee Coffey, a lead scientist in the PMBRC and founder of BioEnz Technologies, a biological solutions company. Funding of €118,000 will be made available for the Expanding lab tests for the COVID-19 virus project through the joint Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and IDA initiative to tackle the scientific challenges posed by COVID-19.


For the award-winning PMBRC, this project is one of a several initiatives taking part within the research centre on COVID-19.
 

“We have been working on a number of projects with academic and industry partners around the rapid testing for COVID-19 and the formulation of antivirals to treat the disease” said Centre Manager Dr Niall O'Reilly.
 

“Unfortunately COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come but the project funded here is a great example of a team of scientists coming together to tackle one of the many challenges we face. Hopefully the impact of this and other projects funded under the call will lessen the societal burden of the virus,” he added.

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