Genomic technologies supporting the fight against COVID-19

Global travel has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, but a new test, developed at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, could facilitate quick, effective testing for passengers at airports.

The test kit, called iScan, combines a system for amplification of Covid with CRISPR to effectively detect the virus. Accessibility is one of the key advantages of the kit as it uses reagents that can be sourced locally. Currently, most Covid tests use PCR technology. Although reliable and effective, the PCR method usually requires skilled personnel to operate the kit. iScan overcomes the majority of these challenges. 

Like existing methods, iScan sees a patient’s sample collected with a nasopharygeal swab. It’s then placed in a small tube contained all the necessary reagents and incubated to give results in under an hour. Crucially, the reagents in iScan only recognise viral RNA from SARS-CoV-2 – and advantage over current methods which can suffer from cross-contamination. He result can be visualised using either UV light, or strips akin to pregnancy tests.

Next steps will be to begin activities to commercialise the iScan, following further research to improve and simply the system further.