Superyacht owner developing home test kit for Covid-19


Science and technology entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg is developing a home test kit for Covid-19, claimed to deliver results in 30 minutes, aboard his 55-metre superyacht, Gene Machine.

 Appearing to tweet from Gene Machine’s onboard laboratory, Rothberg first announced his intention to develop “a low cost, easy to manufacture home test kit of coronavirus” on March 7th.

In an interview with IEEE Spectrum, Rothberg said his team “is working around the clock to accomplish the goal. I told my team that the Chinese built a hospital in Wuhan in 10 days so we should be able to develop and deploy a true home test for Covid-19 coronavirus in that time”.

The test would be as simple as a pregnancy test and return a positive or negative result within 30 minutes.

The method would see people swab the inside of their nose or mouth and dip the swab in three tubes following instructions from an accompanying app. The altered colour of the third tube would indicate whether the person has coronavirus or not. The person will then use their phone’s camera to take a photo of the third tube and upload to the app, which will provide more information on the results.

Rothberg has given a group of scientists at Homodeus the responsibility of developing the test. Homodeus is part of his company 4Catalyzer, which creates medical devices, such as the $2k Butterfly iQ, a handheld ultrasound tool that utilises smartphone technology. Rothberg has also put a call out on Twitter for experts who have experience launching apps online and is working with the Bill Gates Foundation to develop the test.

Rothberg said on Twitter: “So, this really has to be the last pandemic without inexpensive home #test kits. With near instant results. Thinking today how to do for Covid-19. We know we can do with a specialized machine (RTQPCR). So, we just need to do an isothermal amplification.”

 In an announcement yesterday (March 19th) Rothberg declared the process was reaching culmination. “Based on our preliminary testing on positive controls, we believe our limit of detection is in the same ballpark as the gold standard RT-qPCR assay. We are able to detect roughly ten copies of viral DNA per uL [microlitre] while the gold standard detects five copies of viral DNA per uL. A symptomatic patient presenting to the hospital has on average 100 copies of viral DNA per uL if viral RNA present in standard samples.

 “We are awaiting IRB approval (which should happen in the next day or so) to run trials to determine sensitivity and specificity on clinical samples.”

 Superyacht Investor will keep you up-to-date with the latest developments in the development of this test kit and any other developments in the superyachting world surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak.



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