The research lab in Leuven has been given a grant of €2 million by the Flemish government and is teaming up with UZ Leuven University Hospital for clinical validation of Covid-19 test. Imec intends to test a functional prototype at Brussels Airport in the summer of 2021.
The test uses the 'gold standard' polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to be accurate in determining if someone has the virus without having to use an uncomfortable nasal swab and laboratory processing time. Other tests can be easier to conduct but can be less accurate.
By testing exhaled air imec tests not only whether someone has the virus but also how likely they are to be contagious. Droplets from exhaled breath are thought to be the virus's main transmission method. Peter Peumans, CTO of Health Technologies at IMEC said the test is being designed to cope flexibly with other viruses that spread by the same method, such as influenza, respiratory synctycial virus (RSV) and tuberculosis.
"SARS-CoV-2 testing via breath sample coupled with an ultrafast molecular analysis would be game-changing since it would allow for the timely detection of individuals who are most likely to transmit the virus," said Peter Piot, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The system uses an aerosol sample collector and molecular analysis unit that can perform the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The microfluidic MEMS allows for thousands of cavities in which to capture viral particles and testing time has been reduced from 50 minutes to 5 minutes.
"In anticipation of other investors joining this effort, imec has decided to pre-invest the necessary resources as part of our contribution to the global fight against Covid-19," said Luc Van den hove, CEO of imec.
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