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Low-Cost, Simple-to-Use, Ultrafast Point-of-Care COVID-19 Test to Provide RT PCR Results in 8 Minutes

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 09 Oct 2020
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Image: Close-up of early Rover photothermal PCR prototype (Photo courtesy of Rover Diagnostics)
Image: Close-up of early Rover photothermal PCR prototype (Photo courtesy of Rover Diagnostics)
A new low-cost, simple-to-use, ultrafast point-of-care test for COVID-19 aims to provide reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) results in just eight minutes, faster than any other test of its kind, with targeted accuracy to match laboratory-based tests.

The promising new COVID-19 rapid-testing technology platform has been developed by Rover Diagnostics (New York, NY, USA) and Columbia Engineering (New York, NY, USA). Rover’s ultrafast, portable PCR technology is based on two breakthroughs in science and engineering and it meets all the conditions for successful point-of-care PCR. First, it uses microfluidic sample preparation developed by Prof. Sam Sia’s lab at Columbia University’s Dept. of Bioengineering. This technology allows Rover to eliminate expensive, complex sample prep equipment in favor of a small, disposable chip.

Secondly, the platform uses a new approach to thermal cycling that bypasses the standard Peltier device which requires 40-60 minutes for amplification. Instead of radiant heat coming from outside the vial or well, the platform use photothermal gold nanoparticles to generate heat from inside. The result is thermal cycling that is 10x faster and uses 100x less energy than is possible today. Rover aims to combine these two technologies into an easy-to-use, sample-to-answer instrument. Furthermore, Rover will integrate HIPAA-compliant cloud access to allow for instant notification and large-scale data analysis. Rover’s COVID-19 rapid-testing technology platform has been selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to enter Phase 1 of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative to support new COVID-19 testing technologies.

“We were determined to develop a testing platform for all kinds of viruses that is cheap, reliable, and accessible to everyone,” said Sia, an innovator in point-of-care blood tests, wearable sensors, and implantable devices. “With Rover, we can now perform thermal cycling, which is the backbone of high-performing DNA and RNA testing, several times faster.”

“We are expanding our testing of clinical samples and bringing together additional resources and expertise to finalize the design and speed to manufacturing. The NIH RADx initiative is accelerating our progress to bring the fast PCR platform to the widest possible good,” added Sia.

Related Links:
Rover Diagnostics
Columbia Engineering

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