Lucence Launches SAFER™ Technology Suite for Accurate COVID-19 Detection Using Naso-Oropharyngeal Saliva

Media Release
August 18, 2020

Enhanced naso-oropharyngeal (NOP) saliva sampling using SAFER™ Sample Kit detects an unprecedented 36% more COVID-19 patients than conventional swabbing methods ; automation of saliva testing key to boosting testing capacity.

Hong Kong, 18th August 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major demands on medical laboratories worldwide to achieve large-scale diagnostic testing. Bottlenecks have emerged across sampling capacity, transport, skilled manpower, testing equipment, and consumables. In Hong Kong, large-scale population-wide COVID-19 testing has been proposed to help identify COVID-19 cases in the community1. Many operational and manpower challenges are expected during this ramping up effort.

Lucence is therefore launching an integrated technology suite in Hong Kong to support the ramping up of accessible and accurate saliva-based mass-testing. The technology suite includes four key solutions: enhanced NOP saliva sampling methods with SAFER™ Sample kit; saliva processing automation (‘Starlight’); automation to support RNA extraction with PCR testing kits; and a next-generation sequencing kit (‘DeepMARK’) to support quicker tracing of outbreak clusters. With these solutions, COVID-19 outbreaks can be controlled through large-scale saliva-based mass-testing, together with efficient contact-tracing supported by molecular methods.

The SAFER™ Sample Stabilization Fluid keeps viral RNA in saliva stable from degradation at room temperature for up to 7 days2, eliminating the need for complicated and cumbersome cold-chain storage. The guanidine-free solution inactivates the SARS-CoV-2 virus in 45 seconds2, reducing risks of transmission to healthcare workers handling the specimens.

Collection of NOP saliva with SAFER™ Sample Kit was demonstrated in a National University of Singapore study to have an unprecedented 36% greater sensitivity for COVID-19 detection than swab collection3. Collection of NOP saliva can be done throughout the day, not only in the early morning. Mass-testing can therefore be conducted with greater accuracy, while still being easily accessible to all age-groups. With the large number of samples expected in mass-testing, laboratories can also benefit from solutions preserving sample integrity at room temperature for easier transport and work scheduling for medical laboratory technicians.

Effective solubilization of saliva samples is needed for testing accuracy by maximizing the amount of viral RNA in solution for testing. Lucence’s automated saliva solubilization platform Starlight™ standardizes a key sample preparation step for NOP saliva. Starlight™ reduces technicians’ hands-on time for saliva solubilization by 83%, while reducing technicians’ exposure to stress-related micro-injuries. This means higher daily test capacity, quicker turnaround times, and greater standardization for accuracy.

DeepMARK™, Lucence’s proprietary next-generation sequencing kit allows public health labs worldwide to generate high-quality phylogenetic information to support more effective contact tracing3. Such molecular case surveillance can achieve more effective community control.

“Effective community strategies against COVID-19 require solutions that work together to achieve safe, accurate, and efficient testing. Both saliva and swab testing are important tools to help ramp up mass-testing. The key is accessibility, availability and making sure everyone in Hong Kong has access to COVID-19 testing, whether it be saliva or swabs. We’re glad to play our part in the community, and partner hospitals and laboratories here to contribute what we can.” said Dr. Tan Min-Han, Founder and CEO, Lucence Diagnostics.

1. South China Morning Post. (2020, Aug 15). Hong Kong prepares to launch mass Covid-19 testing as city confirms 46 new cases, two more deaths
2. A*STAR News (2020, 16 June) Lucence, A*STAR share data showing SAFER Sample Saliva Collection Kit for COVID-19 inactivates collected virus
3. Alvin Teo KJ, Choudhury Y, et. al. (2020, Aug 13). Validation of Saliva and Self-Administered Nasal Swabs for COVID-19 Testing. MedRxiv.

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