Scientists at The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton have come up with a completely new way of testing for COVID-19 which will allow for a significant increase in testing capacity across the province.
The new the breakthrough was developed in the Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program (HRLMP) – a partnership between St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and Hamilton Health Sciences – which is responsible for conducting clinical COVID-19 testing for the region. Currently, the HRLMP clinical testing capacity is 800 samples per day. With these advancements in place, scientists are aiming to test up to 6,000 samples daily.
Dr. David Bulir and Dr. Marek Smieja, infectious disease physician-researchers from St. Joe’s Disease Diagnostics and Development (D3) Group, predicted the need for an alternative supply of testing materials in January.
“In the face of global shortages, we’ve had to secure a new supply of all the materials required for COVID-19 testing, as well as invent some components that enable mass testing,” said Dr. Gail Martin, Executive Director of The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton. “St. Joe’s has effectively rebuilt and secured an entire supply chain, one that is urgently needed to manage the shortage of testing supplies.”
While some materials have been sourced and validated from new suppliers, such as flocked swabs and specimen tubes, other materials, including the new transport medium, are entirely novel. Dr. David Bulir developed the new transport medium and an enhanced test for COVID-19 at St. Joe’s research laboratory.
Building up the province’s stockpile of testing supplies and its capacity to perform rapid testing are vital as municipalities gradually lift lockdown restrictions.
“We’re working with the province to ensure we can rapidly develop ways to provide these new materials to other labs,” said Dr. Martin. “This is a Made-in-Ontario solution to a critical global shortage.”