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Watch: How Abu Dhabi built a high-volume Covid-19 testing lab in 14 days

Watch: How Abu Dhabi built a high-volume Covid-19 testing lab in 14 days

The new lab will prioritise testing of cases within the UAE, but could scale up to receive samples from neighbouring countries too

Laboratory Tests

In only 14 days, a massive-throughput laboratory has been constructed, and is now operational in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City which will allow for population-scale detection and diagnosis of the Covid-19 virus, reported official news agency WAM.

The laboratory which is a collaboration between Abu Dhabi-based AI and cloud computing company Group 42 (G42) and genomics company BGI, can conduct tens of thousands of real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests per day and is the first facility of this scale built outside of China.

On Tuesday it was reported that the UAE Ministry of Health had already carried out more than 220,000 laboratory tests across the country for Covid-19, resulting in a testing coverage at over 22,900 tests per million people in the UAE; the second-highest test density in the world.

The new laboratory will further accelerate the country’s testing capability.

The lab will utilise BGI’s RT-PCR diagnostic kits for the detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease. It is the only RT-PCR diagnostic kit that has received approvals from China (NMPA), Europe (CE-IVD), the United States (FDA) and the WHO.

“This high throughput lab provides the scale and firepower to enable all people in Abu Dhabi and the UAE to access the most reliable PCR tests. In such challenging times, we feel compelled to leverage our expertise, technological resources and international partnerships to bring rapid, accurate testing capabilities on a massive scale and bolster the detection efforts led by authorities,” said Peng Xiao, CEO of G42.

The goal of the new lab is to accelerate the diagnosis and identification of suspected Covid-19 cases, facilitating in the release of recovered patients, and the screening of close-contacts and high-risk groups therefore flattening the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic and slowing down its spread.

Meanwhile, the chairman and co-founder of BGI, Wang Jian added, “Together with our partners at G42, we can bring the world’s best technology and experience in fighting global health threats to help the people of the UAE and beyond.”

G42 and BGI, first partnered in December 2019 with the announcement of the Population Genome Program by the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, and have since then worked on the production of not only Covid-19 testing kits, but also on other medical supply-related equipment and thermal sensors.

The new lab will prioritise testing of cases within the UAE, but could scale up to receive samples from neighbouring countries too.

G42 and BGI also plan to enable cutting-edge monitoring of virus mutations and the ability to detect new pathogens in the future with high-throughput sequencing.

The UAE has, as of March 31, reported 664 coronavirus cases and 6 deaths as a result of the virus within the country.

Read: Coronavirus: UAE reports one additional death; Saudi records two deaths

It has already set up its first drive-through Covid-19 testing unit (only the fifth country in the world to feature such a facility) which is capable of testing 600 people a day.

Read: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed orders drive-through Covid-19 testing centres across the UAE

On March 30, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces ordered the opening of such centres across the UAE capable of testing patients in a five-minute procedure and delivering results in six hours. The new centres will open in Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Al Ain and Al Dhafra over the next 10 days.

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