A team of robots is helping researchers expedite the process of analyzing COVID-19 samples.
The bots, developed by researchers at the UC Berkeley and UCSF Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI), are being used in a pop-up lab to automate nearly the entire testing process.
As noted in a report from the Daily Californian, while one bot takes patient samples from inside to the lab and transfers them to plates with wells another bot conduts what’s known as a quantitative polymerase chain reaction, or qPCR, test.
A team of robots developed by developed by researchers at the UC Berkeley and UCSF Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) aim to expedite the COVID-19 testing process
According to a report from Forbes, researchers in charge of the team of robots, which have already begun testing samples, say that they’re conducting tests on about 200 samples per day.
Once the system is scaled up, they hope to reach 1,000 samples per day with a max capacity up to 3,000 tests per day if necessary.
According to the researchers, the lab can have a sample analyzed and turned around in less than 24 hours
The researchers reportedly adapted techniques and machines that were used in other kinds of genetic testing and hopes to develop an FDA-compliant facility that will reduce the likelihood of human error while also greatly increasing the speed with which tests are done.
‘The UC Berkeley team is racing to address this critical public health situation by establishing a testing lab that will be immediately impactful in our community, while also generating data that contributes to understanding the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,’ said Jennifer Doudna, professor of molecular and cell biology and of chemistry and IGI executive director.
The automation could be crucial in ramping up testing to judge how fast and far COVID-19 has spread in the US (stock)
In addition to decreasing the amount of wait time for people that may potentially be carrying COVID-19 researchers say facilities like theirs could be key in understanding the extent to which the virus is spreading.
In mid-April experts said that testing in the US would need to triple before the government could make an educated decision to re-open the economy according to the New York Times.
‘There are other aspects of broader testing that would be so clinically powerful,’ he said.
‘We could make better decisions about health, about work, about possibly how long we need to continue to socially distance, based on what we find.’