peakPCR: Making DNA Analyses Faster and More Accessible

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a laboratory technique used to rapidly produce millions of copies of a specific segment of DNA. This amplification of a DNA segment of interest enables it to then be studied in detail. PCR is an important tool in the diagnosis of diseases such as COVID-19 as it provides a high degree of sensitivity and accuracy. Unfortunately, this technique requires large and expensive equipment and is both time-consuming and costly to implement. These requirements mean that there are significant barriers to the use of PCR for diagnostic purposes in low-resource settings.

The multidisciplinary team of biologists, biotechnologists and engineers involved in this consortium developed a new, portable PCR testing platform capable of rapidly detecting several different viral and bacterial infections, with high reliability and at an accessible cost.

All aspects of the innovative PCR testing platform were iteratively optimised from the extraction of the DNA sample, to PCR amplification and results interpretation. The testing platform has been extensively validated through conducting more 10,000 tests across more than 15 countries in Europe, South America and Africa. In May 2022 the technology received a Conformité Européenne (CE) mark, confirming that it meets European health, safety and environmental protection standards. It is therefore now available as a medical device and has been utilized as such in several institutions in both Europe and Africa. Additionally, the team have demonstrated the potential utility of their technology to the diagnosis of other diseases (for example sexually transmitted diseases) and other applications such as food production.

The technology developed enables accessible, high-quality PCR tests suitable for resource-limited settings. It is now being made available to an increasing number of users, both in developed and developing countries.