Vasco Barreto, principal investigator of the DNA BREAKS Group, was awarded with 2 research grants : one by ANI - Agência Nacional de Inovação of €40,000 and the other by FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, of €30,000, for the project “Ultra-sensitive, specific, scalable, fast and cheap: a colorimetric-assisted single-tube nested conventional PCR to detect the Sars-Cov-2 RNA in nasopharyngeal swabs”.
This project aims to replace the current qPCR-based method to test infection of the new coronavirus used in Portugal, allowing to increase up to an order of magnitude the installed capacity of the many Portuguese research units from the SciPTask Force COVID-19.
The new testing method that is being developed by Vasco Barreto and his team presents several advantages, such as being simpler, lower-priced, designed for a regular thermocycler and should have increased sensitivity.
In addition to this, removing the bottlenecks that currently limit testing, namely RNA isolation and the need for a rare qPCR machine, would scale up the installed capacity of the Portuguese research units by at least a factor of six, while lowering the cost price of a single test, to about 25% of the estimated cost by iMM for the current method.
The group expects to have the method certified by INSA and the manuscript in BioRxiv in the coming months.