“Inexpensive and yet reliable” an article from business-on.de

Mandatory masks, lock-downs, test certificates – these seem far away for many in the summer months. But not for Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD). He recently warned: “We could have another omicron wave in autumn” and is thinking aloud about possible measures. Unlike last winter, PCR testing could be used much more frequently than before thanks to new advances and thus provide a more reliable data basis for pandemic control.

Bioengineer: "Many corona tests are less meaningful than generally assumed".

According to experts like the President of the German Medical Association, Klaus Reinhardt, the poor data basis is an Achilles’ heel of corona management in Germany. For him, the last two and a half years have resembled a “data-blind flight”, which, according to Reinhardt, “was not a good basis for rational decisions.”
From the point of view of Michele Gregorini and Phillippe Bechtold, bioengineers and founders of Diaxxo AG, who have been developing PCR test devices, among other things, for more than seven years, the poor quality of many tests is a central cause of the still spotty data situation in this country. “Many coronary tests are less meaningful than generally assumed,” Gregorini says. This applies above all to the antigen tests that are still widely used, but also some of the point-of-care PCR tests do not reach the necessary quality, according to the scientist.

Inexpensive and yet reliable: With improved PCR tests on the way to becoming the gold standard?

The fact that the antigen tests, despite their weaknesses, are considered the method of choice and are used much more frequently than the PCR methods is probably due to the disproportionately higher costs of a PCR test. According to Bechtold and Gregorini, it is above all the requirements for an uninterrupted cold chain from sample collection to the laboratory that drive up the prices for the regularly more reliable PCR tests.

Together, they have therefore developed a test device that delivers laboratory quality even without complicated cooling procedures. With the vision of facilitating access to safe test diagnostics for all sections of the population, the two ETH Zurich scientists founded Diaxxo AG for this purpose. Apparently with success. “With our technology, we can offer PCR tests for less than 10 euros each”. It does not seem impossible that the new cost efficiency will give PCR tests a new significance in coming pandemic waves.

According to a statement by the Federal Government’s Corona Expert Council, an “efficient test infrastructure” with significantly improved quality control is one of the key challenges for the winter half-year.

Serious testing or quick money? – Approval practice on the test bench

If Gregorini and Bechtold have their way, this will also require a much stricter approval control of the tests available on the market. There are still too many providers who operate with low-value tests. “Many providers do not have the well-being of the population in mind, but are only engaged in money-making,” the founders criticise. As an example, they cite approved devices that did not purify the RNA in the samples, thus enabling less accurate results. What sounds technical at first could become a serious problem for the credibility of pandemic policy. If policymakers tighten the reins on test approvals, the pool of providers is also likely to shrink significantly. In order to prevail against the competition, Gregorini and Bechtold therefore focused early on not only on the price but also on simple handling that makes testing mobile and quick.

More than just Corona: Multisensitive testing devices as part of global infection control

Even though corona is the dominant topic in the public health debate, the occurrence of monkeypox is a good example: Other infectious diseases such as malaria or dengue also pose new challenges to health systems all over the world. Test providers, such as Diaxxo AG, are therefore increasingly focusing on technologies with which all viruses can be determined. In this way, they not only want to counter the Corona pandemic, but at the same time strengthen health protection against infectious diseases globally.

Original article (in German):     

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