African-European Partnership for the Development and Deployment of Rapid SARS-CoV-2 RNA and Antigen Detection Assays
Despite recent developments in SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, the long view for worldwide vaccine coverage and the threat of new emerging viral mutants mean that the most effective control measure remains diagnostic SARS-CoV-2 testing. The project aims to advance novel and rapid COVID-19 diagnostic technologies tailored for low-resource and emergency settings. This multi-national consortium will co-develop a rapid lateral flow diagnostic assay that can be implemented at point-of-need and a portable PCR device operated in a mobile suitcase lab for use in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Currently, SARS-CoV-2 has infected almost 400 million individuals worldwide. Effective therapeutics are not yet available. Moreover, new viral mutants are continuously emerging and can affect vaccine potency. Therefore, the most effective control measures are early identification and isolation of infected cases, contact tracing in combination with social distancing and compulsory use of facial masks. As a result, there is an urgent demand for rapid diagnostic methods that can be implemented at point-of-need.
To improve SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic capacity around the world, the eleven research teams will lead collaborative efforts to evaluate and deploy a rapid lateral flow diagnostic assay and a portable PCR device, both to be hosted in a mobile suitcase lab for implementation at point-of-need in LMICs. The mobile suitcase lab has the potential to increase access to rapid diagnostics in remote settings. The case will be powered by a solar panel and reagents can be kept at ambient temperature, decoupling it from dependence on refrigeration. The consortium plans a multi-country evaluation study to assess the diagnostic devices across various environmental conditions.
The consortium brings together eleven research teams from different fields of expertise including material science, biotechnology, biology, genetics and medicine. The study will facilitate the development of cutting-edge technologies that are best suited to address the specific needs of SARS-CoV-2 testing in Africa. The researchers will use the study findings to create a path for developing a widespread COVID-19 testing strategy in Africa to break the chain of infection.
This research is part of a joint initiative to bring together research teams from the BRCCH and the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) in collaborative projects. The research efforts supported by the BRCCH, led by Prof Wendelin Stark and Prof Janos Vörös (both ETH Zurich) build upon the peakPCR project and a Rapid SARS-CoV-2 Diagnostic Test project, respectively. The research activities supported by the EDCTP, led by Dr Ahmed Abd El Wahed (University of Leipzig) builds upon the Suitcaselab project.