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Department academics develop virus test tech

Posted by on 19 March 2020 | Comments

Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Otago scientists have swiftly adapted overseas technology to help develop a powerful coronavirus test which this week detected Dunedin's first two confirmed COVID-19 cases. The testing device added significantly to the country’s testing capability.

The team on 7th floor in the Quiñones-Mateu lab is responsible for developing a test they have been adapting over the last 6 weeks, that was used to confirm the two recent COVID-19 cases in Dunedin city. Prof Quinones-Mateu, who is also director of the university’s Webster Centre for Infectious Diseases, said the project had involved ‘‘quite a lot of work’’. Some ‘‘really amazing’’ science underlay the project, and he was happy to help contribute to the area where he was now living.

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Dr Blair Lawley, who's contribution was critical for developing the test.

The Dunedin team had adapted a German assay (test) to run on a Panther Fusion System — an existing, computerised high-throughput molecular testing machine — and had it available just in time to test the first Dunedin Covid-19 cases. Prof Quinones-Mateu had his team, including Drs Blair Lawley and Rhodri Harfoot, at the department had also been ‘‘extremely helpful’’, he said.

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Professor Miguel Quiñones-Mateu - Webster Family Chair in Viral Pathogensis.