Cape Town – Two South African entrepreneurs have speeded up the coronavirus testing procedure significantly. It usually takes up to three hours to obtain test results, but their groundbreaking kit has reduced it to 65 minutes.
The qPCR kits developed by Allan Gray Orbis Foundation fellows Daniel Ndima and Dineo Lioma are expected to have a positive impact on managing and curbing the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, reducing the reliance on expensive, imported testing kits.
The extent of Covid-19 testing being conducted in the country will be a prime factor in deciding if the lockdown should be extended even further.
Statistics released by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases indicate that South Africa has been doing only 3 000 to 5 000 tests on most days over the last week. To date, only 121 510 Covid-19 tests have been conducted nationwide.
As a locally manufactured product, the qPCR could mitigate the reliance on overseas imports, ensuring that testing reagents could be accessed quickly and without a wait. They are also more affordable than international products.
“The ability to obtain rapid test results allows us to gain a clearer picture of viral infections, so that we are able to introduce interventions with greater effectiveness,” says CapeBio chief executive Ndima.
“This will remain important even after lockdown, as South Africa has a population of over 55 million people who will need to be monitored on an ongoing basis.”
The development of the kits represents a spinoff of the work Ndima has dedicated the past 12 years of his life to.
“Our kits help pathologists isolate and identify a virus’s DNA or genetic material from an infected person. This makes it possible to detect the virus accurately in a laboratory.
“One of our major challenges is our reliance on imported tests. Most countries are currently experiencing issues with supply and demand, which their respective governments are controlling with newly introduced trade regulations.
“This has caused delays in the delivery of imported testing kits and protective gear and may impact on the delivery of vaccines once they have passed clinical trials.”
While efforts have been made to reduce the spread of the virus, Ndima points out that the impact of the crisis on our economy is just as concerning as the toll on our healthcare systems, stressing that collaboration among entrepreneurs will be a hallmark of a post-coronavirus world.
CapeBio has benefited from collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation’s Covid-19 response team, where experts from universities and research and development centres around the country have been give a platform to share ideas and capabilities in the search for viable solutions.
The post-coronavirus world offers an opportunity for businesses to reimagine their offerings, believes Ndima.
“All of us need to go back to the drawing boards, rethink tactics, collaborate and rebuild, using the benefits offered by 4IR tools to create high-impact businesses.
“This global pandemic is presenting us with serious health and economic threats, but I think it could present us with stimulated business mindsets going into the new world – so that, hopefully, we can build businesses rooted in kindness to all our people and a sense of responsibility and patriotism to our nation.”
No qPCR testing kits have been rolled out as yet. They need official accreditation and approval first and are expected to be rolled out in June.
Only pathology labs with qualified clinicians can procure and use the kits to detect the virus from patients’ clinical samples. They are not sold to the public and are not for public use.
By Staff Writer