7 Life Science Companies Creating COVID-19 Solutions

Global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been quick, widespread, and encouraging. Life science companies have been sharing data, information, resources, protocols, and even reagents in the spirit of beating the pandemic, and communication between researchers has never been more frequent or extensive.

It’s exactly the kind of radical collaboration we love to see.

Here are a few standout coronavirus solutions created by Opentrons customers.

ADT Biotech

ADT Biotech. CREDIT: ADT Biotech

ADT Biotech is an ISO 13485 certified manufacturer of IVD test kits with a strong focus on molecular diagnostic solutions for emerging diseases specifically for the Asia Pacific region and developing countries. In the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, when almost all cases occurred only in China, ADT Biotech decided to develop a product for sensitive and specific detection of the pathogen. Our product has since been clinically validated by referral centers in Malaysia and Thailand, and has been adopted by the Ministry of Health Malaysia for all government labs under its purview.

"We are glad we also made an early decision to automate major steps of our production with the Opentrons OT-2 robot," says managing director Dr. Finn Zedler. "This system has enabled us to significantly ramp up our production capacity by handling routine steps faster while standardizing workflow and reducing the risk of error when manufacturing large quantities of product."

BforCure

BforCure's ultrafast PCR machine used for COVID-19 testing. CREDIT: BforCure

BforCure provides high speed, quantitative biosensing solutions and R&D services. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re focused on delivering qPCR-based diagnostics and have received approval from the French military to develop and deploy them AND an ultrafast PCR machine. The machine uses microfluidic technology to quickly and precisely change temperatures, and can perform at least 40 cycles in 10 minutes.

BforCure uses the Opentrons OT-2 to automate sample preparation for their diagnostics. According to research engineer Axel Philip, “The OT-2 increases our testing abilities because we are small and have a lot to do. Before the robot, it took me 1-1.5 hours to prepare pipetting. Now, I need 5 minutes to put tubes on the robot. It is like having 1 more person on the team. In 2 days we can do the work we would have done in 2 weeks.”

Facible Biodiagnostics

Facible Biodiagnostics is creating a fast point-of-use test for clinics and hospitals. CREDIT: Shutterstock

Facible Biodiagnostics is a startup that creates biodiagnostics. They are developing a rapid, accurate, and cost-effective diagnostic coronavirus test targeting the S1 and S2 proteins on the viral envelope with proprietary technology that “does not involve the use of ANY antibodies, meaning we are able to produce our tests at a much faster rate and we are still able to achieve the same (if not better) binding specificity and accuracy as other antibody diagnostic tests,” says lead research technologist Nicholas Hagen Shults. “Our goal is to produce a point-of-use test for clinics and hospitals that will take 5 minutes or less to be completed with 95% accuracy or better.”

While their OT-2 liquid handler isn’t part of this solution, Facible Biodiagnostics uses it for many different procedures and protocols in their lab including dilutions, mixing, dispensing and incubation. “Whether we need better accuracy or to run a repetitive procedure that frees up our workers, the use of the OT-2 and its add-on elements have decreased our production timelines and smoothed our workflow,” says Shults.

OpenCell

A mockup of OpenCell's mobile shipping container COVID-19 testing lab. CREDIT: OpenCell

OpenCell provides early stage biotech startups in London with affordable lab space, as we’ve mentioned before. They are now rapidly scaling high throughput nucleic acid testing facilities in shipping containers that can be deployed anywhere and scale up testing capabilities from 500 tests per day to more than 10,000. They are freely offering their blueprints, protocols, and other resources to the life science community.

They are also automating an RT-qPCR test for 92 samples at a time using Opentrons OT-2 liquid handler to automate the rate-limiting step (RNA extraction) using open-source magnetic beads. They are also using the OT2 for qPCR preparation. “Using five OT-2 robots, with four at the RNA extraction step, we can perform more than 2,500 tests every 24 hours, with only one or two operators at a time,” says OpenCell director Helene Steiner.

OpenCell's COVID-19 testing system workflow. CREDIT: OpenCell

Novici Biotech

Novici Biotech manufactures antibodies to bind COVID-19. CREDIT: Belova59

Novici Biotech produces recombinant proteins, shuffled DNA libraries, and DNA error correction technology for the synthetic biology market. They are currently manufacturing monoclonal antibody CR3022, a promising antibody shown to bind SARS-COV-2. In under four weeks, they were able to use raw data from a preprint to design and create both IgG1 and IgG4 variants of the antibody -- and donated the first batch of the antibody to BEI Resources for distribution to researchers.

“We’ve used the Opentrons OT-2 to optimize transient Nicotiana benthamiana plant expression of the monoclonal antibody CR3022, which binds SARS-CoV-2,” said senior scientist Matthew McGee. “One of the ways we can improve expression of recombinant proteins in plants is through host engineering, which sometimes involves transient expression of host-modifying genes using the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Since this optimization process requires precise handling of relatively large numbers of samples, the Opentrons OT-2 allows us to accurately address and dilute each individual Agrobacterium culture from our library into 96-well plates ready for administration to plants.

“For me, the OT-2 is most valuable for reproducibly dispensing complicated arrays. If I have to manually change volumes for every well in a 96-well plate to transfer, probably by well 60 I will make some sort of mistake whether I realize it or not.”

TechBio Solutions

TechBio Solutions is helping integrate multi-centre testing. CREDIT: Michal Jarmoluk

TechBio Solutions provides compliance solutions for life science manufacturing facilities including monitoring systems, mapping, maintenance, calibration of particle counters, and data loggers. They are an Opentrons distributor, and are using the OT-2 for two processes, namely COVID-19 RT-PCR prep using multiple kits and for NGS prep for genotyping projects. “Our goal is to help integrate multi-centre testing as is happening in India, so monitoring could be done from remote for quality and process controls,” says owner Vishnu Raja. “For a cost-conscious market, with minimal resources, the Opentrons systems could be best-value technology.”

Zymo Research

A breakdown of Zymo Research's COVID-19 RNA Extraction process. CREDIT: Zymo Research

Zymo Research provides biomedical tools and services to researchers, as we’ve mentioned before. Now, they’re helping labs working on coronavirus detection by creating a complete COVID-19 detection workflow from sample collection, RNA extraction, and RT-PCR-based detection that is in pre-Emergency Use Authorization review by the FDA.

“The process starts with a transport media, DNA/RNA Shield, to completely inactivate the coronavirus during sample collection and transportation, as it preserves the RNA at room temperature for up to 30 days,” says research specialist Casey Cruz. “Next, we use the Quick-DNA/RNA Viral MagBead Kit for the RNA extraction process, and the Quick-SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR Test Kit to complete the workflow for coronavirus detection.”

Zymo Research offers a slew of resources to life science labs looking to set up their own COVID-19 testing workflows--including support for fellow Opentrons customers interested in onboarding their reagents onto an Opentrons OT-2 robot.

If you would like to implement the Opentrons system in your own lab, please contact covid-19@opentrons.com.