October 1, 2023
Business News

Kilkenny-based scientist working to develop faster Covid-19 testing system

A county Kilkenny resident is leading a team of scientists hoping to cut the time of Covid-19 testing down to less than 30 minutes, while also making the testing more accessible.

Dr Lee Coffey, who lives in Kilmacow, is leading an innovative project at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) that has been awarded €118,000 to develop their accelerated Covid-19 testing.

The WIT team from the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) and Eco-Innovation Research Centre (EIRC) have teamed up with University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and WIT-spin out company BioEnz Technologies Ltd for the project.

The team will be led by Dr Lee Coffey, a lead scientist in the PMBRC and founder of BioEnz Technologies, a biological solutions company.

Picture: Patrick Browne

“The most reliable Covid-19 tests use a technique called polymerase chain reaction or PCR,” explained Dr Coffey. “The virus is cracked open and the genetic material or RNA is extracted. This is then copied over and over-using PCR until it can be detected.

“However, the PCR step is slow and can take over two hours. We aim to speed this up and bring the time down to under 30 minutes.

“We also plan to validate the method on a wider range of equipment, thereby increasing the number of labs capable of testing for COVID-19. With the expertise in the team coming together from WIT, UHW and BIOENZ, we can trial thousands of better test options as quickly as possible,” he concluded.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys announced an investment of €1.4m in 11 projects under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) coordinated research and innovation response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the PMBRC projects was one of the successful ones.

This investment builds on previous funding and complements the existing research work underway in higher education institutions across the country.



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