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Sea containers can be converted into automated COVID-19 laboratories

Portable coronavirus labs built into shipping containers that can be moved on a truck can be a new, inexpensive way to handle COVID-19 tests.

Scientists from OpenCell.bio and King’s College London partnered with a company called Opentrons Labworks to create the rapid robot-powered facility.

The team says it is the first fully functional lab to ‘deploy immediately anywhere in the world’ to test coronavirus and process 2,400 tests per day.

The system uses low-cost liquid handling robots to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in samples submitted to the public for testing.

Portable coronavirus labs built into shipping containers that can be moved on a truck can be a new, inexpensive way to handle COVID-19 tests.

Portable coronavirus labs built into shipping containers that can be moved on a truck can be a new, inexpensive way to handle COVID-19 tests.

Scientists from OpenCell.bio and King's College London partnered with a company called Opentrons Labworks to create the rapid robot-powered facility

Scientists from OpenCell.bio and King's College London partnered with a company called Opentrons Labworks to create the rapid robot-powered facility

Scientists from OpenCell.bio and King’s College London partnered with a company called Opentrons Labworks to create the rapid robot-powered facility

For the project, a 40ft high-cube sea container will be converted to a high laboratory specification, while maintaining structural integrity and the ability to be transported anywhere in the world and operated by one person

For the project, a 40ft high-cube sea container will be converted to a high laboratory specification, while maintaining structural integrity and the ability to be transported anywhere in the world and operated by one person

For the project, a 40ft high-cube sea container will be converted to a high laboratory specification, while maintaining structural integrity and the ability to be transported anywhere in the world and operated by one person

Called CONTAIN, it’s an open source design with non-company-owned supplies and agents, meaning it doesn’t have the same supply chain limitations as other coronavirus testing services.

Helene Steiner, CEO of OpenCell, says the project is a critical step in increasing the number of accredited laboratories that can conduct COVID-19 tests.

“We work closely with regulators to ensure that our testing laboratory system remains of high quality and low cost and meets the stringent standards required to perform population testing,” said Steiner.

For the project, a 40ft high-cube transport container is converted to a high laboratory specification while maintaining structural integrity and the ability to be transported.

The design allows CONTAIN units to be shipped quickly to any location and requires only flat, solid ground and utilities (electricity, water) to be ready for operation.

A data management system tracks samples through the automated testing process using QR codes and unique sample IDs.

The testing follows the gold standard for COVID-19 testing and is conducted in three stages, according to the team behind the study.

Station A (sample treatment), Station B (RNA extraction) and Station C (qPCR).

Stations B and C are automated using Opentron’s fluid handling robots, allowing a single operator to run the lab and perform 92 tests every 45 minutes.

The data management system automatically interprets qPCR data – used to measure RNA – and securely communicates the results to the patient or healthcare provider.

Called CONTAIN, it's an open source design with non-company-owned supplies and agents, meaning it doesn't have the same supply chain limitations as other coronavirus testing services. It can be delivered anywhere in the world and built in any container

Called CONTAIN, it's an open source design with non-company-owned supplies and agents, meaning it doesn't have the same supply chain limitations as other coronavirus testing services. It can be delivered anywhere in the world and built in any container

Called CONTAIN, it’s an open source design with non-company-owned supplies and agents, meaning it doesn’t have the same supply chain limitations as other coronavirus testing services. It can be delivered anywhere in the world and built in any container

The testing follows the gold standard for COVID-19 testing and is conducted in three stages, according to the team behind the study

The testing follows the gold standard for COVID-19 testing and is conducted in three stages, according to the team behind the study

The testing follows the gold standard for COVID-19 testing and is conducted in three stages, according to the team behind the study

Testing follows the gold standard for COVID-19 testing and is conducted in a simple process, according to a team, according to the study. They say it is able to take patient samples, run it through robotic systems and generate results quickly

Testing follows the gold standard for COVID-19 testing and is conducted in a simple process, according to a team, according to the study. They say it is able to take patient samples, run it through robotic systems and generate results quickly

Testing follows the gold standard for COVID-19 testing and is conducted in a simple process, according to a team, according to the study. They say it is able to take patient samples, run it through robotic systems and generate results quickly

Opentrons has already deployed more than 250 robots to conduct COVID-19 tests in laboratories around the world, now containers can be used more widely.

Lead author Kenneth Walker, who just completed his Ph.D. in synthetic biology at Imperial College said the automation process was complicated.

“The required automation work was a big step and this is the first time a team has done this with open-source robotics that don’t cost the earth,” Walker said.

Open Cell said this is a once-a-century global crisis, with livelihoods and livelihoods around the world severely disrupted.

“Until a vaccine is developed, regular mass testing is needed to make people work and live safely,” the group said.

“This inspired us to create CONTAIN, with the aim of quickly scaling up the test capacity and making it accessible and affordable for everyone.

“A shortage of suitable laboratory space has limited the global test response; CONTAIN units provide a nimble response to the changing geography of the outbreak. ‘

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