bulding at night

Interview with HKUST Research Team

Inventors of the World’s Fastest Coronavirus Detection Device

This machine was not purposefully designed for detecting the coronavirusDR HONG, HKUST RESEARCH TEAM

About the device

With the latest microfluidic chip technology, the device can detect the virus in just 40 minutes from sampling to testing, compared to the currently-used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology which takes between 1.5 to 3 hours. Unlike conventional large-scale PCR devices which use semiconductor to heat up testing samples, the team led by Prof. WEN Weijia from HKUST’s Department of Physics developed a novel silicon-based micro-heater module for the purpose.

How much time and manpower did you spend on this invention?

We have a team of 25 people. This machine was not purposefully designed for detecting the coronavirus. Starting in 2016, our main aim was to increase the rapid action of the surveillance for epidemic disease and give early warning to the public. After the COVID-19 DNA sequence is released to public from the opensource on the internet, our team takes only two weeks to design and fabricate the kit that is compatible with our machine and also traditional lab-bench PCR.

We heard that you are in Shenzhen now, how are you doing and how is the situation there?

There are restricted office hours now, from originally 8am – 8pm, to now 8am – 4pm. People are required to wear masks in public but so much less people on the streets.

What was the biggest challenge and takeaway?

We have teammates here from a variety of different backgrounds so communication within the team was both a challenge and the main takeaway. There are jargons used by biology and engineering students that can be understood in different ways so it’s a demanding process throughout but always fun to navigate together! It is also good to work with someone with different skillsets, hence being able to think from different perspectives and work together to create a perfect product!

The HKUST Research Team, led by Prof. WEN Weijia from the Department of Physics (3rd from the right bottom row)

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