Its Liberty16 open system RT-PCR offers rapid, mobile testing for COVID
Auckland, New Zealand, October 7, 2020: New Zealand-based Ubiquitome is ramping up production of its mobile, real-time (RT) PCR technology with funding from the United States’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative.
Ubiquitome is the only NZ private company to be accepted into the highly competitive RADx and to receive federal funding through the NIH in recent years.
As one of the first RADx-Tech contracts awarded outside the US, Ubiquitome will scale its Liberty16 mobile PCR technology to enable thousands of tests per day by the end of the year.
The Liberty16 will be targeted for use by rural and metropolitan hospitals and mobile labs to test for SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes COVID-19
Ubiquitome’s device can detect virus in 16 samples in 40 minutes or less. It reports positive or negative results via its proprietary iPhone app.
Battery-operated, less than the height of the latest iPhones and weighing only 2.5 kg, the Liberty16 is one of the smallest open system RT-PCR systems on the international market. It is being distributed in Asia Pacific by Swiss giant DKSH.
In the US initiative, Ubiquitome will be funded in part by the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADxSM) initiative with federal funds from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health. The current contract is funded from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr Paul Pickering, Ubiquitome’s founder and CEO, says the RADx-Tech process has been running in parallel with evaluation of the Liberty16 for emergency use approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Dr Steven Kazmierczak, Professor of Pathology at Oregon Health & Science University, led clinical studies on the Liberty16 as part of Ubiquitome’s FDA application. His interests include quality control, point-of-care testing, laboratory error, and method evaluation.
“The Liberty 16 came through as fast, accurate and competitive for the cost of testing and the device itself,” Dr Kazmierczak says.
When launching the US$1.5 billion RADx initiative, NIH said it would propel the technologies developed working closely with US agencies.
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Ubiquitome has signed an exclusive agreement for Swiss headquartered DKSH to market and sell its mobile, battery powered COVID-19 tester, Liberty16, in several Asia Pacific countries.
Swiss giant DKSH signs agreement to market Ubiquitome's mobile, battery powered, PCR COVID-19 fast tester, Liberty16, in the Asia-Pacific market as manufacturing is ramped up with NZ$578,000 backing from the NZ government.
DKSH, also known as DiethelmKellerSiberHegner, is a market expansion services group listed on Switzerland’s main stock exchange, the Six Swiss. The group reported revenue of CHF11.57 billion (US$11.9 Billion) for FY2019. Significant shareholders in DKSH operate through investment managers such as the Central Bank of Norway, BlackRock Inc, Credit Suisse, and AXA Investment Managers.
DKSH’s Singapore-based Business Unit Technology, will provide marketing and sales, and distribution and logistics as well as after-sales services for the Liberty16 in Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. DKSH will also seek regulatory approval in each of the markets for the use of the solution.
The Liberty16 is a handheld, battery-powered, real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR) device that can fast test and relay sample data via an iPhone app, all potentially within 40 minutes.
The device is called Liberty16 because it can run 16 tests at the same time. It is a miniature DNA photocopier that can amplify specific target DNA sequences to show the presence of any DNA of interest, whether that be human, animal, or wider environmental pathogens.
Hanno Elbraechter, head of Business Unit Technology, says developing DKSH’s life science business and providing more innovative solutions for its business partners is a strategic focus.
“Ubiquitome’s solutions can be applied in various industries such as clinical diagnostics, food and beverage and life science research. We look forward to successfully growing the business with Ubiquitome in the APAC region,” Mr Elbraechter says.
Paul Pickering says with the DKSH partnership, Ubiquitome will have unparalleled market coverage in the APAC region.
Dr Pickering says the $528,927 in NZ government funding will help with emergency Food Drug Administration (FDA) authorization and deployment of community testing for COVID-19. Ubiquitome believes Liberty16 has real potential for border testing, with it being able to rapidly test samples from international arrivals.
Ubiquitome is receiving just over half a million dollars in Government funding to help with increase the manufacturing capacity of its Liberty16 rapid COVID-19 testing device in Auckland.
Paul Pickering, chief executive of Ubiquitome, says the mobile device would be ideal for use in places like airports, pre-screening international travellers once borders reopen. Passengers could be tested and would get the result before their flight, indicating whether they should travel or not.
“COVID-19 is the virus of the moment, but there will be others in the future that we’ll need to protect ourselves from, so I’d see pre-flight health checks being normalised the same way more stringent security processes were normalised following 9/11,” Dr Pickering says.
“We can test and get results in under an hour with the Liberty16. We aim to show appropriate airport or border control personnel could be trained to run the device. The Liberty16 software interprets the data so the airport personnel just get a result that shows if the person is positive for COVID-19 or not.”
The Liberty16 is a real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) device that connects via Bluetooth to its own proprietary iPhone App for run set-up, real-time observations and post-run data analysis. It is battery-operated and, weighing in at 2.5 kg and with a footprint of just over 1/3 of an A4 sheet of paper, it is one of the smallest real-time PCR systems on the international market.
Ubiquitome has already sold Liberty16 into research and clinical labs in Japan, US, Canada, United Kingdom and Germany. It is used by the labs to amplify specific target DNA sequences, to show the presence of any DNA of interest whether that be human, animal, or wider environmental pathogens. An earlier prototype was successfully tested for Zaire ebolavirus.
Pickering says the $528,927 government funding will also help with emergency Food Drug Administration (FDA) authorisation and deployment of community testing for the Liberty16.
Apart from airports, Pickering says the device was identified in the UK for its potential in testing front line medical staff before they start work.
Original story featured in Genomeweb.
Ubiquitome said on Tuesday that the New Zealand Health Research Council and Health Ministry is funding research that pairs the company's handheld PCR device and Oxford Nanopore's Flongle sequencer, which can be used for viral genotyping.
The NZ$165,000 (US$98,141) grant will fund Massey University researchers aiming to enable one person to screen more than 500 samples and obtain 24 whole genome sequences per day. The research is also validating minimal-extraction and extractionless methods, such as heat treatments, for RNA sample preparation to address the shortage of reagents for SARS-CoV-2 tests.
In the short term, the Liberty16 will be used to disperse screening for SARS-CoV-2 detection, and additional data from the viral genotyping will "support more efficient tracking and tracing of disease contacts," a spokesperson from Ubiquitome said. The data collected will also contribute to longer-term research into disease epidemiology, the spokesperson added.
Ubiquitome's Liberty16 device is a handheld, battery-powered real-time PCR device that can test and relay sample data through an iPhone application. The device is commercialized for research use only in Japan, the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The company also previously said it intends to apply for Emergency Use Authorization in the US.
"What we can do is narrow the time between infection, diagnosis, and source and contact tracing," said Ubiquitome's Chief Scientific Officer Susan Turner. "To achieve this we need technologies that enable widespread access to affordable, line-of-sight diagnostic testing, rapid turnaround of results, and efficient methods to track and trace viral transmission."
AUCKLAND, New Zealand--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Ubiquitome’s ability to deliver fast test results for COVID-19 is attracting global inquires and top talent keen to get it to countries in desperate need.
Ubiquitome says, since the United Kingdom’s top COVID-19 research team revealed it was considering using Liberty 16 to test front line medical staff, international scientists have realised waiting more than an hour for test results is not necessary.
The Liberty 16 is a handheld, battery-powered, real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR) device that can fast test and relay sample data via an iPhone app - all potentially within 40 minutes.
Called Liberty 16 because it can run 16 tests at the same time, it is a miniature DNA photocopier. It can amplify specific target DNA sequences to show the presence of any DNA of interest, whether that be human, animal, or wider environmental pathogens.
Dr Pickering says Ubiquitome has secured the services of Dr Susan J. Turner, a microbiologist with 30 years of experience across commercial, academic and government sectors. She will take the lead in explaining to governments and the scientific community how Liberty 16 works, the result of trials in the UK and Germany and the benefits of fast tracking it into the battle against COVID-19.
“The fight against COVID-19 is rightly being led globally by scientists,” Dr Pickering says. “Dr Turner has the expertise to explain quickly how Ubiquitome’s Liberty 16 can help in the frontline battle.”
Dr Turner spent five years in the United States as senior vice-president R&D at Bio Consortia. Another New Zealand-founded biotech, Bio Consortia moved to California after investment by Khosla Ventures and Otter Capital to join Khosla’s stable of “black swan” technology companies. Dr Turner led the establishment of the US R&D operation, which now operates with 35 scientists developing microbial products for crop improvement.
Prior to Bio Consortia, Dr Turner founded the microbial eco-genomics research group and centre for microbial innovation at the University of Auckland. She has also had early-career experience in public health.
Dr Pickering, a Harvard MBA graduate, has held executive roles with real time PCR market leader Life Technologies/Thermo Fisher.