Hertford’s Professor of Chemical Engineering has led an Oxford research team responsible for developing new rapid testing technology for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Prof. Zhanfeng Cui, a Professorial Fellow at Hertford, worked alongside Prof. Wei Huang and students from the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) on the test. This new test is much faster than its predecessor and does not need a complicated instrument. Whereas the existing viral RNA tests take 1.5 to 2 hours to give a result, the new technology is based on a technique which is capable of giving results in just half an hour – over three times faster than the current method.
The sensitivity of the new test means that patients in early stages of infection may be identified sooner, potentially helping to reduce the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). A simple colour change is used to identity presence of the virus: a positive sample changes from pink to yellow. Each test uses three vials, each with different primers. A positive test would turn two vials yellow and leave one pink, acting as as a negative control to confirm the test is working. This makes it potentially useful in rural areas or community healthcare centres. The test has also been validated with clinical samples at Shenzhen Luohou People’s Hospital in China, where it confirmed the results achieved by the current testing technology.
Prof. Cui has been at Hertford as Donald Pollock Professor of Chemical Engineering since 2000. He is the founding Director of OSCAR, a partnership between the University of Oxford and the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in China’s Jiangsu Province which established Oxford’s first overseas centre for research in physical and engineering sciences. He says:
I am proud of our team that have developed a useful technology and can make a contribution in combating CoV-19, and we are very grateful to the hospital’s medical team led by Dr Xizhou Sun, Dr Xiuming Zhang and Dr Dan Xiong for their part in testing this new technology.
Hear Prof. Cui discuss the new testing technique on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme (50:50 on the clock).
This article has been adapted from the University of Oxford’s news page.