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Industry Collaboration Provides Rapid Response in Testing for Covid-19

Industry Collaboration Provides Rapid Response in Testing for Covid-19

24 June, 2020

Dr Brigid Lucey, Senior Lecturer with CIT’s Department of Biological Sciences, was one of a group of 11 scientists responsible for developing a novel formula for the lysis buffer agent, a critical component in testing for Covid-19.

The lysis buffer is required to extract the viral RNA in respiratory secretion samples for testing while also making the highly infectious viral agent safe in a laboratory environment.

Dr Lucey who is also President of the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine, the professional body for medical scientists in Ireland, was aware that hospital laboratories around the country were short of this component, leading to delays in testing for Covid-19.

Pooling expertise and resources, Dr Lucey collaborated with scientists from University College Cork, Cork University Hospital, Teagasc, University of Limerick and the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly in formulating Guanidinium thiocyanate (GITC)/ Triton X-100 Lysis buffer, providing comparable results with the recommended reagents.

The group presented their work as an example of university-industry engagement during COVID-19 at the 2020 University-Industry Interaction Online Conference on June 10th.

According to Dr Lucey, “This demonstrates the importance of industry collaboration in problem-solving, whereby a community of scientists could come together while maintaining social distancing rules to facilitate important work to continue. In this case, rapid action facilitated rapid diagnosis, which has been shown to save lives, and which is well illustrated by the World Health Organisations’ mantra in response to the current pandemic to “test, test, test”. The best message from this case study might be that it is better to always ask early for help, which may well yield timely solutions”.

The group developed four formulations in two research centres, a risk assessment for the preparation of buffers was prepared in a separate centre, validation of each of the preparations was conducted in a testing hospital laboratory after which one formulation was selected as being suitable for use.

This was followed by a paper written for open-access availability to others needing to prepare lysis buffer elsewhere and the preparation of larger amounts of buffer to deliver to a hospital laboratory for ongoing distribution throughout Ireland. The entire operation, including publication of the paper, was completed in under two weeks. The paper released in early April had 100 downloads around the world during May and the team was contacted by several researchers, the furthest away being in Australia.

"We've become very used to using commercial formulations, and when that supply necessarily has to stop because the entire world is looking for a limited supply of the same formulation, then it's a breakthrough when a whole lot of scientists in separate centres can come together and share their expertise for the common good – in this case, to produce a quality product that can be used diagnostically in a hospital laboratory", Dr Lucey said.

“This rapid collective effort by medical laboratory scientists, academic researchers and the biopharma industry to generate a validated lysis buffer demonstrated that effective transmission was not confined to COVID-19!”, she added.

To explore how CIT can collaborate with you, email or call 021 4335302.