Molecular diagnostics company Lucence has announced the development of a new viral sample collection medical device for COVID-19 diagnosis and surveillance.

The sample collection medical device, dubbed SAFER-Sample (Stabilisation of nucleic Acid Formulation for Evaluation of RNA) kit, is being developed to support more accessible testing of viral infections such as COVID-19.

The SAFER-Sample medical device is a collection kit, which will be provided with a bottle of stabilisation fluid that has to be mixed with the sample at the point of collection, helping to make RNA stable at room temperature for up to one week.

Later, the sample will be shipped to a testing lab without the need for chilling, which is more useful in countries where samples must be transported across large geographical areas for testing.

Lucence founding CEO Dr Tan Min-Han said: “We are very glad that our technology, used to reduce suffering of cancer patients, can contribute to accurate testing solutions during this global crisis.

“In line with our mission of using molecular technology to improve health worldwide, we are making up to 10,000 kits available at no cost to the scientific community.”

SAFER-Sample kit uses reagent that was invented at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology of A*STAR

The SAFER-Sample kit uses reagent that was invented at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology of A*STAR, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research of Singapore.

According to the company, the experiments show that SAFER-Sample enables for better stabilization of the genomes of RNA viruses, compared to other types of specimen transport media at room temperature, to facilitate more precise testing.

SAFER-Sample’s ability is also being assessed to inactivate COVID-19 at the collection to understand its capacity to enhance the safety of healthcare workers while they collect and process patient samples.

With the support of Lucence’s non-invasive ultrasensitive molecular testing technology and the productising capabilities of the Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub, SAFER-Sample kit will also be useful for non-invasive sample types including saliva.

At present, the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) Singapore is assessing non-invasive patient specimens collected with the SAFER-Sample reagent, while Lucence is working with the Ministry of Health Singapore wider performance evaluation.

DxD Hub CEO Dr Sidney Yee said: “We’re excited that this collaboration can result in more accessible testing of RNA viruses. Such public-private partnerships are especially important in times like these, where the translation of innovation in the labs to rapidly fulfill the demands of the healthcare community is critical.”

In November 2019, MEDx (Suzhou) Translational Medicine collaborated with genomic medicine company Lucence for the development of cancer-care tests.