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McGill University researchers develop new "Made in Canada" COVID-19 test

Researchers at McGill University have already made 15,000 RT-PCR testing kits and may make universal testing a reality.
By: Stewart Wiseman
June 01, 2020
Photo: Alain Roberge, La Presse

With many parts of Canada beginning to reopen, widespread screening for COVID-19 will be required to monitor and prevent a second wave of the virus. Rapid and available testing for suspected cases will be paramount in surveilling potential spikes in COVID-19. Experts note that, in an ideal world, every Canadian should be tested to stop the spread of the virus, as many of the cases are asymptomatic. McGill University researchers have developed a new "Made in Canada" test that makes universal testing for Canadians one step closer to a reality.

COVID-19 testing occurs in two steps: first, a swab is taken of a patient's nose, and second, the sample undergoes a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, which can be a complex and lengthy procedure. With current RT-PCR tests being provided by large multinational companies, there is a worry that in the case of a second wave, these tests could be diverted away from Canada. The McGill University research team, led by Dr. Martin Schmeing (Director of the Centre de recherche en biologie structurale [CRBS]), and Dr. Don van Meyel (Director of the Centre for Translational Biology [CTB]) have manufactured the first Canadian RT-PCR test, which they hope will make it possible for more Canadians to be tested on a larger scale. “This is not a brand-new test,” says Dr. Schmeing. “This is a Canadian version of the gold standard.”

The biochemists have already made 15,000 RT-PCR reagent kits for the McGill University Health Centre, and have sent the kits to Health Canada for certification. Negotiations are currently underway with Canadian pharmaceutical companies for large-scale kit production, and Dr. Schmeing predicts that once this milestone is reached, they will be able to supply 30 million kits for all Canadians.

Source: La Presse, McGIll University

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