BIOTEC Named Finalist in $6 Million XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing Competition

"COVID-19 Colorimetric Detection Kit (COXY-AMP)" by BIOTEC’s Bioengineering and Sensing Technology Research Team, in collaboration with Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University (MU), has been named a finalist in the XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing Competition. Embarking on a world-class contest under the name “19-Xolution”—a pun for the team’s core technology, BIOTEC and MU team is the only contender from Asia to advance to the Finalist Round, along with other 19 teams from the U.K., Germany and the U.S.

 

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The ongoing XPRIZE Rapid Covid Testing competition was launched last year amidst the peak of the worldwide pandemic by a Los Angeles-based XPRIZE Foundation. A $6-million dollar, 6-month competition aims to usher in the development of faster, cheaper, and handier COVID-19 testing commodities from a broad range of test modalities at scale. Over three separate rounds, teams from around the globe will vie for a limited spot to get their technologies clinically validated by laboratories in the U.S. before beginning a real-time, on-site testing later this year. Initially, the competition attracted 702 teams from 70 countries, out of which only 219 teams from 35 countries were handpicked to proceed to the semi-finals where teams were subject to blind testing. Then, only 20 teams with the most promising and feasible solutions will forge ahead with the competition’s final. Each of the finalists will have an opportunity to showcase their technologies during clinical validation at two world-class laboratories based in the United States.

Thailand’s 19-Xolution is among the finalists racing in the home stretch of the competition. Only 5 winners from different categories will be announced. The winners will be awarded $500,000 with a prospect of proceeding to deployment, and receive an additional $500,000 by further demonstrating scalability, viability, and accountability to XPRIZE. Contest winners will be unveiled in February 2021.

“We are honored to be recognized on the global arena in this final round of XPRIZE” said Dr. Wonnop Visessanguan, BIOTEC’s Executive Director. “From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our goal is to specifically design affordable, easy-to-use, scalable test kits based on our extensive experiences in diagnostics development”.  

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19 Xolution’s entry for the XPRIZE Rapid Covid Testing is an assay based upon colorimetric isothermal amplification that offers a PCR-caliber sensitivity and specificity. Technically speaking, the assay leverages loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) that works as a “photocopier” for SARS-CoV-2 genetic materials called RNA at the molecular level that unlocks colorimetric results observable with the naked eye.

“COXY-AMP was designed to work in pairs: 1) COVID-19 detection and 2) Internal Control for RNA quality assessment to ensure the overall test accuracy. This is a unique feature which makes our test kit stand out from other COVID-19 test kits available in the market” emphasized Dr. Visessanguan.

The tests follow a one-step procedure that only requires users to add the test RNA into COVID-19 and Internal Control reaction tubes and incubate them at 65°C for 75 minutes. COVID-19 reaction turns yellow if SAR-CoV-2 RNA is detected in the sample. The caveat is: this colorimetric result is validated only when the Internal Control reaction also turns green, indicating that the right amount of RNA is put into the reaction. The Internal Control kit was developed as a tool to verify that the integrity of viral RNA is not compromised during patient sample collection and processing.

“Our COVID-19 test kits will help relieve the pressure of overburdened labs and greatly expand the access of diagnostic services to people who need them” concluded Dr. Visessanguan.

 

Posted on 26 January 2021.