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Doherty Institute Researchers Named Semi Finalists in XPrize Rapid COVID Testing

Two innovative Doherty Institute projects have been shortlisted as XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing semi-finalists.

Launched in July 2020, XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing is a US $5million, 6-month competition that aims to increase COVID-19 testing capabilities 100-times past the current standard.

A team headed up by Professor Tim Stinear, Dr Andrew Buultjens and Dr Koen Vandelannoote have submitted two projects, the Ender VX-500 and the FABL-8. Both involve re-purposing 3D printers to allow for low-cost, high-throughput and portable COVID-19 diagnostic testing.

“For the 3D-Liberty-Dx, we have been able to use 3D printers to harness the power of automation, a single instrument run by one operator, can process 48-72 specimens an hour, a team of four people could process up to 384 specimens per hour,” Professor Stinear said.

“Each printer costs US $300, and the required modifications are printed from the instrument to convert it into diagnostics robot.”

Dr Buultjens said in the fight against COVID-19 rapid and decentralised is likely to be key.

“Our device, the FABL-8 is a good contender for this role, it's rapid, simple-to-perform, sensitive and specific to picking up SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in both saliva and nasal swab samples,” he said.

“Through our validation experiments, we found our system was equal in performance to commercial devices, which cost around US$5000, compared to the FABL-8, which is around US$300 each.”

The teams are now required to complete a blinded proficiency test kit to accurately identify which samples contain COVID-19. Their results will be scored on specificity, sensitivity and limits of detection.

Finalists will be announced on 23 October, with a US$1 million prize awarded to each of the top five teams that develop frequent, fast, cheap and easy COVID-19 screening solutions.

XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world's grandest challenges. Active competitions include the $20 Million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $10 Million Rainforest XPRIZE, the $10 Million ANA Avatar XPRIZE, the $5 Million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, $5 Million XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, XPRIZE NextGen Mask Challenge and $5 Million XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing. For more information, visit xprize.org.