Lucence and Akribis Collaborate on COVID-19 Saliva Processing Automated Platform to Enable Mass Testing

Media Release
July 2, 2020
Precision medicine company Lucence and precision engineering company Akribis Systems today announced a technology collaboration to scale up accurate mass-testing for COVID-19.
 
The collaboration will develop an automated saliva solubilization instrument to enable mass-processing of saliva for accurate molecular PCR diagnostic testing by laboratories.
 
Saliva is the ideal sample for mass-testing as compared to invasive swabs1, because it is accurate, easier to collect, and risks of infection through aerosol are reduced for healthcare workers during specimen collection. COVID-19 saliva mass-testing has been adopted by the United States, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, and Australian governments. Saliva solubilization is a key step to allow saliva to be effectively tested.

In the laboratory, however, saliva solubilization is manual, heterogeneous and can even be physically painful and injurious for medical laboratory staff because of repeated stress injury from sample shaking requirements. Diverse lab practices to solubilizing saliva samples, or even worse, the omission of this step, can lead to reduced test accuracy.
 
Nearly 5 million COVID-19 tests are done daily worldwide2-4. This automated instrument platform will support medical laboratories worldwide, including within Singapore and Hong Kong SAR, to support the workflow of the SAFER™ Sample saliva collection kit by Lucence. The instrument ensures a standard and robust saliva solubilization protocol for saliva samples collected with the SAFER™ Sample kit to optimize accuracy over current manual approaches. Also, the instrument significantly reduces labor, discomfort, the time required by medical lab technicians while ensuring ease of scaling up for mass testing and screening of large populations.
 
The SAFER™ Sample Collection Kit is registered as a Class A medical device with the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore and is an easy-to-use saliva collection kit that enables accessible, non-invasive, and safe sample collection via saliva. It inactivates collected virus within 45 seconds5, thus achieving greater safety during transport for the community and the laboratory.
 
Together with the automated processing instrument, Lucence and Akribis aim to integrate precision medicine with precision engineering to solve a crucial saliva pre-processing step to maximize the accuracy of the COVID-19 test. This collaborative effort would help to link the accessibility of the SAFER™ Sample collection approach to mass testing in service laboratories, which is critical to scaling cost-effective testing worldwide for airports, borders, and population testing.

In a pilot study, Lucence and Akribis demonstrated the potential reduction of a medical lab technician’s hands-on time from 30 min to less than 5 min.

Dr. Tan Min-Han, Founder, CEO, and Medical Director of Lucence said: “Mass-testing is a key to restoring our economy, and strong automation approaches are required to support scaling up of saliva mass-testing solutions. Akribis is a global precision engineering company, and we’re proud to work with Akribis as our partner to solve a little-recognized but crucial bottleneck – saliva solubilization – to achieve accurate mass-testing results for the world.”

Mr. Leow Yong Peng, Founder, and CEO of Akribis said, “Great technology solutions emerge out of cross-disciplinary collaborations, and nowhere more so that between medicine and engineering. We’re proud to work together with Lucence, a global precision medicine company, to deliver an automated COVID-19 sample processing platform during a time of great need.”

Lucence and Akribis will be deploying the first unit by the end of July 2020.

About Lucence

Lucence is a precision oncology company that makes state-of-the-art, highly sensitive liquid biopsy tests for disease detection and treatment selection. Lucence is headquartered in Palo Alto and Singapore, and its services are delivered worldwide through an accredited central laboratory. Visit www.lucence.com for more information.

About Akribis Systems

Akribis is a precision engineering company that design and manufacture state-of-the-art direct drive motors, stages and precision systems for manufacturing, inspection and testing, and support a wide range of industries including semiconductor, solar, flat panel, hard disk, LED, printed circuit board, printing, photonics, and biomedical manufacturing, etc. Akribis is headquartered in Singapore, with two production factories in Singapore and Shanghai & Nantong, China, with worldwide sales and support offices in USA, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Germany and Israel, and distribution channels in Asia, Europe and North America. Visit http://www.akribis-sys.com/ for more information

References

1. Azzi et al. Saliva is a reliable tool to detect SARS-CoV-2. J Infect. 2020 Jul;81(1):e45-e50. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2020.04.005.

2. CGTN. (2020, Jun 24). China’s daily COVID-19 testing capacity hits 3.78 million. https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-06-24/China-s-daily-COVID-19-testing-capacity-hits-3-78-million-RAa1yHsBYk/index.html

3. The COVID Tracking Project. (2020, Jun 30). US historical data. https://covidtracking.com/data/us-daily

4. Our World in Data. (2020, Jun 30). Daily COVID-19 tests. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/full-list-covid-19-tests-per-day

5. Agence France-Presse. (2020, June 16). Lucence, A*STAR share study data showing SAFERTM Sample Saliva Collection Kit for Covid-19 inactivates collected virus. https://www.afp.com/en/news/1313/lucence-astar-share-study-data-showing-safertm-sample-saliva-collection-kit-covid-19-inactivates-collected-virus-202006160053201

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