FocusTsinghua researchers develop a box of instant nucleic acid screening for COVID-19

Researchers from Tsinghua University have developed a Box of Instant Nucleic Acid Screening (BINAS) for COVID-19 diagnostics that may be suitably adapted for fast COVID-19 screening at population level, and provides low-cost testing which can be performed by almost anyone at home. The invention is a joint effort led by Prof. Bai Jingwei and Prof. Li Yinqing from the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Prof. Liu Peng from the School of Medicine.

As existing nucleic-acid test technologies rely on expensive equipment or professionals with molecular biology skills, they are often too restrictive in capacity to scale up and to be distributed, especially in areas with limited resources. The three young Tsinghua researchers decided to develop a low-cost diagnostic tool that can be operated without any training for rapid and accurate detection of COVID-19. “We just want to make some efforts to help fight this worldwide coronavirus pandemic,” they said in an interview.

The BINAS technology is designed with its focus on sensitivity and ease of use. The technology has been tested on samples of patients and found to have a sensitivity nearly as good as the most stringent QPCR-based test.

Testing using BINAS is simple and fast. The detection process is fully integrated in a single plastic cartridge, and it takes only two tweaks of the embedded plunges to obtain the results. Basically, a user places a pharyngeal swab directly in the cartridge to lysis any virus and uses the plunge to drive the lysate into the downstream reactions, including reverse transcription and amplifications. A complete nucleic-acid test from the “sample to results” can be finished in 30 minutes.

Despite being designed to target COVID-19, the technology is highly modular and can be easily repurposed with different chemistries; thus it can serve as a general platform for rapid prototyping for future detection developments.

The next step is that the researchers will be collaborating with industries in refining the manufacturing process, so that BINAS can be produced in quantities and be evaluated in larger-scale clinical trials. The technology would need to pass all the necessary regulatory processes before being made widely available to the public.


Source: School of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Editor: John Olbrich