During the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of scholars from Tsinghua University cooperated with biotech company TsingLife, Shenzhen Second People’s Hospital, SZU First Affiliated Hospital, and Center for Translational Medicine Research and Development to develop an integrated, independent-use kit that allows for fast testing of coronavirus infection; the result will be available in no more than thirty minutes. The product has received EU CE certificate in March but meanwhile China issued a new prohibition order on exports including this product, which led this project to further wait for public launch.
One of the main managers of this project is Dr. Yang Guang, currently a postgraduate at Tsinghua University. He is invited by Pandaily to share some of his insights on both the project and the pandemic.
Can you talk a bit about this product, its function, user domain, and etc?
In fact, we have developed two products. One is virus monitor system and the other is BINAS, a kit used for coronavirus testing. Both are products that contain the use of cutting-edge technologies in the world today. Compared with the common kits in public we have now, our products have 100 to 1000 times more sensitivity than usual and can detect more substance and thus are more effective in detecting the virus. A simple drop of blood is needed and in five to ten minutes the test result is available. This kit can be for both public and private use.
When and how did this idea of a coronavirus quick-test kit come about?
This is not a sudden thought. Having worked in biological product development for years, we have accumulated the relevant experience, techniques, and insights. We immediately met to discuss what we could do for the pandemic when the coronavirus outbreak just started. We soon came to the idea of developing this product.
What were the difficulties that the research team met when developing?
The biggest difficulty that we met was the lockdown of our community and laboratory. While our experiments needed to be done in the lab, the restrictions prevented us from doing so. However, with collaborative efforts and long-time negotiation, we found a way to make things work. And in several weeks, we had our first product come into existence.
From a scientific perspective, what do you think about this whole pandemic?
This virus is similar to SARS and MERS. A Coronavirus outbreak usually happens in autumn and winter, but is sensitive to high temperature. Theoretically, as long as we quarantine infected patients, preventing it from further infection, the pandemic can be well in our control. Our government took a lot of measures, so I once predicted that the pandemic would be held down in March or April and eradicated in May or July. However, other countries are taking very different measures. Some are even trying “herd immunity”, which prolongs the virus’s survival. Thus, currently, controlling the pandemic globally requires a somewhat longer time frame. And the exact timing will be clear when relevant vaccines are invented.
What is your vision for a future that is tightly connected to science and technology?
Science and technology is the first productive force of a society. Its advancement increases our society’s efficiency. While it truly helps our society develop in many ways, it allows people more time to do things they are enthusiastic about, which, in some way, promotes a kind of higher level pursuit.