Student team is crowdfunding for fast epidemic test kit
Unfortunately, Covid-19 won’t be the last infectious disease to sweep across the world. To nip such diseases in the bud, a team of Leiden students is developing a test kit that will be able to detect infectious diseases at an early stage. With this idea, they won the Grand Prize of the international iGEM competition.
The Rapidemic test kit will help fight severe infectious diseases even in the remotest of areas. It will consist of a full mini laboratory in a handy box that will allow doctors to determine quickly and at minimal cost whether a patient has a particular disease.
The 14-strong student team from Leiden is developing a Rapidemic prototype for the iGEM international student competition. The stuents have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help them develop the product. ‘Developing a prototype isn’t cheap,’ says Lucy Chong, the team’s finance manager. ‘We have to buy lots of lab materials, and we can’t do that without outside help.’
Rapidemic incorporates various methods that are needed to detect an infection. To begin with, a method to identify new viruses. To use Rapidemic, you prime it with a sample of the virus that you want to test patients for. You then take patient samples. As the team’s initial focus is on respiratory diseases, it will be possible to take these samples with the same kind of cotton buds that are currently used in corona tests.
The genetic material is then amplified to an amount that can be studied. This too is done in one of the chambers in the test kit. The last part of the process – the actual detection of the disease – is also possible with Rapidemic. The kit will turn a certain colour if the RNA of the virus in question is present in the patient’s saliva.
The student team ultimately hopes not only to create a working prototype but also to produce a model that can be manufactured on a larger scale. The kits would then save lives in remote areas in particular as well as nip potential pandemics in the bud. Chong: ‘We want to find a global solution to a global problem. Our proof of concept already works so we have high hopes that the prototype will too.’