100% Argentinian technology for the COVID-19 test

Specialists of the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI) and the national company Ivema Desarrollos designed an essential device for a rapid diagnostic test to substitute imports, reduce costs to the half and meet the local demand that is currently with a shortage of stock. This device – Block thermostat – is used for the thermal treatment of samples in order to detect the presence of the virus.

In the context of the current pandemic and due to the increasing number of cases, one of the key actions to control the spread of coronavirus is to conduct this test. In this scenario, different national research groups have successfully developed molecular diagnostic test kits for the rapid detection of the virus SARS-CoV-2 and specialists from the INTI contacted them to know their requirements.

It was acknowledged that the kits required a specific block thermostat – to make a molecular amplification of the RNA samples without condensation during the process – that was experiencing a shortage of stock in the national market. Facing the request of the company Ivema Desarrollos to create this type of device in the short term, we decided to work together on that. Its availability was the key to expand the number of laboratories and establishments that would be able to conduct the tests in the country”, indicates Mijal Mass, from the INTI Micro and Nanotechnologies Department, and member of the team that carried out this work, articulated with the Departments of Biotechnology, Physics and Mechanics of the same Institute.

We worked all together with the INTI and the experience was very positive because we could come to a solution in one month. Today, we are launching the first batch of 20 units and we plan to meet the demand of 600 units for the rest of the year”, says Javier Bailan, President of Ivema Desarrollos.

The new product meets the specific requirements of the “ELA-CHEMSTRIP” kit (see the box), that in less than one hour can detect if a person has COVID-19 from a swab test, but it could also be used for other kits (such as the NEOKIT TECNOAMI) because of its precision for temperature control and its lower price (half of the imported products). Its main characteristic is that it has a heated lid system, digital control, excellent thermal uniformity and it can process up to 24 samples at the same time.

Concerning the device performance, the development coordinator of “ELA-CHEMSTRIP”, Diego Comerci, stands out that if his clients ask, he recommends this product because it is ideal. “Besides, it represents a good example of how industrial clusters can be integrated and created regarding certain technologies, as in this case with the biomedical and biotechnology areas”, he adds.

In that sense, the director of the INTI Micro and Nanotechnologies Department, Alex Lozano, concludes that “it was possible to develop in a really short term a device adapted to the specific requirements of the test and able to be manufactured and commercialized by a national company. This allows us to meet the demand of the local market, substitute imports and have greater access to diagnostic tests”.

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