Testing for the RNA of the SARS-CoV2 virus and antibodies, are the main tools to help combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, through identifying cases and outbreaks. These tests will be critical measures to help manage our way out of the lockdown and to suppress the pandemic.
To this end, the team from BGS have been working with partners at Hoare Lea and Oxford Brookes University amongst others, to develop a concept for a mobile testing facility and lab, designed to biological safety containment Level 3 standards. This will help protect the frontline healthcare workers from infection, reduce contamination of samples and could be rapidly deployed into communities, providing a single process to quickly turn around test results in the field.
The concept is for a simple and cost effective high-tech “cocoon” containing the lab and test clinic, that is designed using the principles of Design for Manufacture, using standardised components wherever possible. Placing these clinics in standard ISO shipping containers, will improve their mobility and distribution, to help locate both the sample collection and diagnostic testing in the community. This will help reach members of society who cannot easily drive to the current test centres, and provide a quick turnaround.
By developing an open-source design, we are looking to share expertise, incorporate accessible and non-proprietary technologies and to minimise wherever possible any prescriptive Intellectual Property or Copyright issues, to slow down the mass production and implementation of this concept.
We propose to offer specifications, instructions and templates, so that these mobile clinics could be rapidly constructed by multiple consortia, and quickly deployed at scale to benefit the national and international testing efforts.
Working under these challenging conditions, has tested us all with new ways of working and communicating, and we are looking to take this a step further – by designing in a true open-source fashion. We will not be protective of the idea, will place the developing concept out for public scrutiny and feedback, and filter the responses incorporating them where possible, to try and quickly develop the most robust solution.
We are therefore asking potential collaborators to register, to volunteer their knowledge and insights, or to offer resources, so that we can develop the design, built and test a prototype, and ultimately look to develop a full working facility that can be put into clinical tests, and seek regulatory approval.
We have had positive responses from various experts so far, but this is an urgent challenge and we are looking to develop this incredibly fast. This relies on good-will, a “can do” attitude and acknowledgement of the risks of failure.
So please offer constructive criticism (both positive and negative), in the comment section below. We look forward to a productive discussion.