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Malaysian PhD Student Was Part Of An Oxford Team That Developed COVID-19 Rapid Test Kits

The test kits were validated with real clinical samples at a hospital in China during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

Cover image via New Straits Times

26-year-old Lim Boon Chuan is part of a team of scientists from the University of Oxford that developed a revolutionary rapid testing technology for COVID-19

Lim, who hails from Kuala Lumpur, is a scholarship PhD student studying synthetic biology at the university, reported New Straits Times.

When the coronavirus epidemic was on the rise in China, Lim along with his professors at the university and the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) developed a COVID-19 test kit that can produce results three times faster than the current method.

University of Oxford PhD student Lim Boon Chuan.

Image via New Straits Times

According to Lim, the new test kits can produce results in half an hour, unlike the previous viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) tests which need two hours

He said the new diagnostic kit can skip the extraction step and does not need the support of other kits, equipment, or chemicals to run the tests.

"Our goal is to design and produce something that can be sent to households, so people should be able to do the testing at home easily and fast without going to a diagnostic centre or to the hospital," said Lim, who is also a multiple-time award winner.

"In the United Kingdom, if you go for tests, it takes three days to come back (to retrieve the results).

"But if we are able to produce or design something that people can use to test at home, they can get the result within half an hour without a cycle of temperatures."

He said the new kits only use a single temperature - which is 65°C - to produce COVID-19 test results in 30 minutes.

Besides, the technology is very sensitive as it can detect the early stages of a COVID-19 infection inside a patient

The precision and rapidness, in return, can help to quickly identify infected people, put them in isolation, and stop the spread.

According to a press release by the University of Oxford, the test kits were reportedly validated at Shenzhen Luohou People's Hospital in China with real clinical samples.

After some testing and cross-examination with other testing methods on both COVID-19 positive and negative individuals, the kit Lim helped develop was proven to be successful.

Speaking to the English daily, Lim revealed that the project was not even part of his PhD studies

The 26-year-old said the project was headed by his PhD supervisor Professor Wei Huang and another leading scientist, Professor Zhanfeng Cui, who is also the OSCAR director.

Lim's role was to design and run all the experiments.

At this juncture, the Oxford scientists are developing an integrated device to make the kit more user-friendly so that it can be easily used at clinics, airports, or even at home

They will also run clinical validations within the UK and sort out the production arrangement for the test kits.

In a LinkedIn post on Thursday, 19 March, Lim said they are one step closer to mass production as the clinical data has been promising.

Meanwhile, Professor Zhanfeng Cui said he is proud of the team's invention, which will contribute to the fight of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also thanked the doctors in China for putting the technology into test.

Thank you, Lim and the scientists involved, for creating such a crucial piece of equipment when the world needs it the most!

Image via Tenor

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