Scientists worldwide are working to develop rapid COVID-19 testing. ITRI, with the joint efforts from the industrial, research, medical, and public sectors, has formed a task force focusing on molecular rapid testing and officially introduced its nucleic acid molecular detection device and kit in April. This test is precise, sensitive, efficient, and easy to carry around. To be specific, it is able to yield results in 60 minutes, with an accuracy of over 90%, and weighs only 600 grams.
ITRI’s nucleic acid molecule detection system features a rather small size compared to conventional testing devices.
There are several methods of detecting COVID-19, including viral nucleic acid molecule detection, viral nucleocapsid/spike protein detection, and immune antibody detection, and each can be applied in incubation, infection and recovery periods respectively. ITRI adopts the viral nucleic acid molecule detection system, which uses a qPCR technique and can detect early infection from Day 0 to Day 7 in the incubation period when the viral concentration is still low.
As ITRI’s Vice President and General Director of Biomedical Technology and Device Research Laboratories Chii-Wann Lin expressed, the highly efficient kit offers results in just one hour, which is 75% faster than traditional tests. In addition, the canister is only the 1/57th the weight of traditional testing devices, making the device portable and convenient for medical personnel to carry out small-scale rapid tests in many settings.
|Precision||Uses a qPCR technique, with 90% testing accuracy|
|Lightweight||Portable design at only 600 grams, which is 1/57th the weight of traditional equipment|
|Sensitivity||Can detect early infection in the incubation period (0-7 days)|
|Efficiency||Shortens test time from 4 hours to 1 hour, thereby reducing manpower needs|
When specifying where this rapid test can be applied, ITRI President Edwin Liu indicated that border screening is a crucial measure to block a pandemic at an early stage, saying, “We hope ITRI can work with Taiwan Centers for Disease Control in introducing the nucleic acid molecular detection device and kit for rapid testing in medical centers, community clinics, or airports/ports.”
Dr. Liu further remarked that COVID-19 is expected to become more “influenza-like” and that the proportion of mild cases will be quite high. Consequently, how to quickly diagnose at medical centers or clinics whether people have been infected will be crucial to halt the spread of infection. ITRI’s “mobile lab” method, he said, will allow individual tests to be conducted efficiently. The waiting time for the test results can thereby be shortened from 48 hours to 1 hour, while significantly reducing the manpower and costs for virus screening.
To enable intensive production, ITRI has cooperated with industrial partners, government sectors, research institutes and medical centers including Institute of Preventive Medicine of National Defense Medical Center, hospitals and four companies.
The Director of Institute of Preventive Medicine at National Defense Medical Center Po-Shiuan Hsien expressed that amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, his Institute, which focuses on bio-protection research, has obtained preliminary results in rapid tests on viral antigens. The collaboration with ITRI allows the two parties to work together on the development and verification of the nucleic acid detection system. He hopes that the goal of mass production can be achieved as soon as possible, to ensure public health.
A Member of the Board of Supervisors at Taiwan Society of Laboratory Medicine and Chief of Institute of Medicine at Chung Shan Medical University Hospital Ming-Chang Hsieh also pointed out that ITRI’s innovation featuring one-hour rapid testing for COVID-19 would be a great advantage for clinical tests. The expansion of testing capacities will surely relieve the burden of medical workers in clinical tests.
ITRI is expected to complete 10,000 thermostatic nucleic acid amplification probe reagent kits in its GMP pilot plant by the end of June. With more companies’ participation, ITRI hopes to transfer the technology by the end of July and get prepared for mass production, with the aim to provide an accurate rapid testing solution for the frontline efforts in pandemic prevention.