Foto: Anders Wolff

Quicker and cheaper coronavirus test on its way

Friday 03 Apr 20

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Anders Wolff
Professor
DTU Bioengineering
+45 45 25 63 05

The team behind COVID TESTS

Professor Anders Wolff, PhD, DTU Bioengineering, Professor and PhD Dang Duong Bang, DTU Food, and their two research teams collaborate with SSI, Amager, Hvidovre Hospitaler, and TATAA Biocenter AB.

Read more DTU receives grants for corona-related research

A new test kit developed with government funding raises hopes that hospitals will be able to perform 10,000 coronavirus tests a week.

Together with a project group, DTU received a grant of DKK 13 million last week from the Danish Government’s acute coronavirus research pool for the development of a quick test that can determine in just 30 minutes whether a patient is infected with coronavirus. Since then, the foundation Gudbjørg og Ejnar Honorés Fond has supported the project with an additional DKK 5 million.

Now, the first promising results show that the research team has succeeded in developing a new diagnostic tool for detecting coronavirus. The next step will be to scale the test and deliver 1,000 of the chips installed in the test instruments. With 1,000 chips, 10,000 coronavirus tests can be performed each week. The testing capacity in Denmark is currently being increased to 5,000 tests per week. 

Initially, the coronavirus test can be used to test healthcare professionals at hospitals in Denmark. It may subsequently be used to test staff in the care sector, and—finally—it can be used to test ordinary citizens. Access to simple and quick testing is important to the Government’s strategy of slowly reopening society again. 

“It’s very gratifying that one of our research projects—which was supported by the Government—is already now showing very promising results. We believe that the idea we had from the start can be realized within a month or two. This will mean that we can increase the volume of tests dramatically and potentially go from testing in emergency rooms to also testing outside hospitals—without having to submit virus samples to a central analytical laboratory,” says Rasmus Larsen, Provost at DTU. 

From salmonella to coronavirus

The idea for the new diagnostic tool originally comes from the Vivaldi research project, where researchers from DTU Bioengineering and DTU Food have developed a portable device that can detect salmonella, campylobacter, and avian influenza in poultry and food production in less than an hour.

The researchers are now using this technology to detect the virus SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19. The method is called Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) and is similar to the PCR test, which is used by several countries because it delivers quick test results. This also applies to the tests developed by the research group. The test results are ready within 30 minutes and will be cheaper than current tests.

The researchers conducted the first test two weeks ago, and the results are promising. They initially tested artificial samples and have subsequently collaborated with Clinical Microbiology at Vejle Hospital on development and use of the new technology for quick detection of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in pharyngeal swabs from COVID-19 patients. The research team has tested a total of 120 real coronavirus samples from Vejle Hospital and has just received 100 new samples.

“Vejle Hospital is one of the places that have been asked to test Danes for coronavirus. After they have performed their own tests, we have received the excess material and run our own tests. The results are at least just as good as the tests from Vejle Hospital,” says Professor Anders Wolff from DTU Bioengineering.

He says that the research team will also test samples from Hvidovre Hospital, which uses a slightly different method because it is difficult to get enough test kits for everyone to use the same equipment.

“I’m surprised by how quickly and well our testing has gone. As a researcher, I’ve never worked as hard as I’ve done in the past three months. But it has also been exciting to help perform such an important social task,” says Anders Wolff.

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