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.