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."

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