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article imageCanadian researchers developing COVID-19 'lab-in-a-box'

By Karen Graham     Mar 7, 2020 in Technology
Canadian researchers are developing a “lab-in-a-box” that could make it cheaper and faster to diagnose cases of the COVID-19 virus, particularly in remote areas of the world.
The project received $1 million from the International Development Research Centre as part of the $27 million in coronavirus research the federal government announced on Friday.
The technology is being developed by Keith Pardee, an assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Toronto. His lab, the Pardee Lab is part of the Graduate Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University. Pardee has already demonstrated a portable and programmable system for the detection of disease with the development of molecular diagnostics.
According to the company's website, they were able to come up with a portable system for diagnosing the Zika virus in only six weeks in 2014. "These low-cost tests (< $1) can detect the virus at clinically relevant concentrations directly from infected serum without purification or concentration of the virus." These tools and others in development have the potential to provide a diagnosis virtually anywhere in the world.
Keith Pardee
Assistant professor 
Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy
University of Toronto
Keith Pardee Assistant professor Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy University of Toronto
Pardee Lab
A portable testing laboratory
Xinyu Liu, an associate professor of engineering at the university, is working to make the test portable. The goal is to create a lab-in-a-box about double the size of a typical moving box - which would contain the diagnostics and hardware to perform 14,000 COVID-19 tests.
"What we are trying to do is make that functional clinical capacity available more globally," Pardee said, according to CTV News Canada.,
And the lab-in-a-box will help to address one issue the World Health Organization has been concerned over - and that is the spread of the coronavirus to regions of the world where the capacity to detect the virus in populations is absent. Pardee hopes this technology will eventually be able to help curb that.
Pardee says this technology will also be useful in Canada. "In places like Canada, our technology would be best suited for decentralized places, like airports and maybe your neighborhood pharmacy."
Pardee says the technology has already proven to be reliable in a lab setting, according to The Star.
And with the basic diagnostic platform already in place, this will make it easier to adapt the lab-in-a-box to respond to future potential pandemics with only a few weeks' lead time. And that is a great advantage today.
More about Covid19, Labinabox, University of toronto, 14000 tests, Pardee Lab
 
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