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The scale of the challenge for clinical diagnostics labs around the world quickly became apparent when the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic hit in 2020. Assays to identify the virus were rapidly developed to isolate patients and monitor the spread of the virus but, with shortages of reagents and labware, and the sheer number of samples expected, scaled-up testing was desperately needed. Thermo Fisher Scientific supplies labs with the qPCR equipment that was central to testing, but wanted to do more to support the global efforts, and so set about developing a solution for high throughput screening.
When the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic hit in 2020, researchers from the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, Netherlands, felt compelled to support the national COVID-19 testing strategy, which was suffering with limited capacity. Recognizing that the gold standard PCR test worked well to identify SARS-CoV-2 positive patients, the institute’s challenges lay in the logistics and a need to automate the process. A fortuitous introduction to an automation expert from Genmab was the start of a successful collaboration, which grew to involve a number of additional partners, and has significantly increased the capacity of SARS-CoV-2 testing in the Netherlands through the development of the STRIP-1 robot.
The race has been on since the start of the pandemic to develop vaccines and drugs to fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Vaccine development has proven successful, with vaccine roll-out underway in many countries, but the need remains to identify drugs that can treat the disease for those who have not been vaccinated, or for those where the vaccine is not effective enough to prevent disease. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Translational Medicine and Pharmacology (ITMP) in Hamburg, Germany, have been using high throughput drug approaches to screen compound libraries for candidate antiviral drugs.
Aqsens Health is focused on developing non-invasive screening and diagnostic tests based on enhanced time-resolved fluorescence for health monitoring and detection of serious diseases, such as cancer, where early diagnosis is vital. With an increasing workload, the company has turned to automation to allow higher throughput and rapid delivery of high quality results.