October 26, 2020
Business News

Waterford boffins in battle for faster virus testing

Waterford scientists have been handed a key role in the battle against Covid-19.

Two research teams from Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have joined forces with University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and BioEnz Technologies, a WIT spin-out.

Their mission is to speed up the time taken for Covid-19 testing and the number of labs able to carry out the tests.

Testing is crucial if schools and businesses are to get back to normal working.

The Waterford research is among a number of projects funded under a €1.4 million programme announced by business minister Heather Humphreys. It involves WIT’s Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre  and Eco-Innovation Research Centre.

The team will be led by Dr Lee Coffey, founder of BioEnz Technologies, a biological solutions company.

“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.”

Outgoing minister for research and development, John Halligan, visited the labs at WIT where the work is underway.

He said it was “a tremendous indication of the calibre of work and research that is taking place in Waterford IT”.

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