28 January 2021
Minister De Jonge visits COVID-19 test robot co-invented by Oncode Investigators Tanenbaum and De Laat
Last Wednesday, January 27th, Dutch Minister of health Hugo de Jonge visited the medical microbiology laboratories at PAMM to witness the newly installed STRIP-1 test robot which was installed end of the year. This test robot is capable of processing 20.000 COVID-19 qPCR-tests per 24 hours, making it unique in the world. The Dutch government sees an innovative solution in the test robot, also beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, and has planned to eventually install 5 of these systems across the country. “The STRIP can be an important additional link in large-scale testing, which is necessary in a pandemic”, says Minister De Jonge. “It is wonderful that companies and institutes in The Netherlands have managed to do this and the government has been happy to cooperate.”
The instalment of the test robot is the result of an initiative taken by Oncode Investigators Wouter de Laat and Marvin Tanenbaum, both of the Hubrecht Institute. In the early days of the pandemic they noticed problems with the amount and the logistics of doing quantitative PCR analysis to detect the SARS-CoV-2. Together with specialists of biotechnology company Genmab, they then took the initiative to develop a state-of-the-art robot to solve this issue. The first test robot is now installed at PAMM in Veldhoven. Marvin Tanenbaum, Wouter de Laat and their colleagues from Genmab explain more in the video below:
Oncode Institute played an important role to speed up the acquisition process. In close coordination with the Hubrecht Institute, we quickly made necessary funding available to start the process of purchasing the robot. The Dutch government stepped in and took over funding the test robot. Not only the number of tests which can be processed by the test robot each 24 hours is unprecedented, the costs per test are also reduced. In the animation below you can see how the robot operates.
By the end of January, the test robot should be validated by the governmental public health services and can be exploited to its full capacity in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a true showcase of innovation in the Dutch public-private research ecosystem with major impact of science.