University of Melbourne has welcomed today’s announcement that the Commonwealth Government will contribute $2.6 million towards boosting the capacity and capability of testing for COVID-19 in Australia.
The funding for the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) – a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne hospital – will be directed to four strategies:
- A ‘one-step’ nucleic acid detection, which combines the current extraction of the virus from the patient sample and detection step into one. By avoiding the separate extraction of genetic material, this test saves substantially on critical lab consumables and is also very rapid, with the potential to reduce test turnaround times.
- The development of new testing protocols to enable more individuals to be tested simultaneously, while minimising the number of consumables used and maintain the current turnaround times.
- Rapidly assessing, trialling, and where relevant, validating new diagnostic test kits that are not yet approved by the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) before they become widely available to ensure the quality of the test.
- Assessing how and when to use serology testing. Serology testing could assist with identification of asymptomatic infection, retrospective diagnosis of individuals who have recovered from infection and determining the extent of infection in a population.
University of Melbourne Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, said these strategies would combine the expertise and technology from across the Institute to support COVID-19 testing across Australia.
“We can’t understand or control the COVID-19 pandemic without increasing testing capacity, so we’re putting all the innovation we can behind it, and will work with laboratories across the country to rapidly expand the options and capabilities for testing COVID-19 in Australia,” Professor Lewin said.