Safeguarding Queensland against COVID-19

Monday, 12 July, 2021 | Supplied by: BGI Australia

Amidst the growing concern from the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, Queensland is tightening border restrictions and sustaining adequate local testing capacity to keep Queenslanders safe. BGI Australia is proud to be the supplier for Pathology Queensland’s testing equipment and kits, contributing to safeguarding the people living in Queensland.

BGI’s COVID-19 Testing Solution, installed in the Pathology Queensland Infectious Diseases Lab (IDL) in Herston Health Precinct, officially started operation in April by running saliva samples that are collected from across the river city. After two weeks, the lab added nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal samples into the pipeline.

The ‘BGI system’, dubbed by the lab staff, surpassed the 10,000-test milestone in less than a month. The integrated system is expected to handle 4700 tests daily at the maximum capacity, with a 24-hour turnaround time from swab collection at a clinic or hospital to reported result.

Dr Ian Mackay, the IDL’s Senior Molecular Scientist, said, “Our approach is to establish a diverse portfolio of advanced technologies to best serve Queenslanders. We appreciate how quickly the BGI team respond to our ongoing technical needs and how efficiently the equipment and testing kits were supplied. We are handling approximately 1100 tests per day as there is no community transmission in the Brisbane region, but the number we process continues to grow and we are well placed to respond should any new clusters occur in Brisbane’s future.”

With a local team of technical specialists and engineers, BGI Australia offers strong support to customers across Australia. Dr Bicheng Yang, Director of BGI Australia, said, “This project is very special for us as Brisbane is our home city, where most of the team members are based, and we are located in the same building as IDL. This certainly will benefit response time and service to ensure that everything runs smoothly and sustains the highest quality to deliver reliable results for the tests.”

The efficient and safe COVID-19 Testing Solution used in the IDL covers the full testing workflow from sample transfer to RNA extraction, pre-PCR preparation and Q-PCR test. The solution incorporates MGI’s (a member of BGI Group) innovative high-throughput automation systems MGISTP-7000 for sample transfer and MGISP-960 for sample preparation, and BGI Genomics’ qPCR instruments and real-time fluorescent Q-PCR kit for detecting SARS-CoV-2. All the products are registered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) and have been widely used over the past year across Australia under the Security Through Accelerated Testing Initiative.

The automation systems used in the workflow minimise the labour required and significantly shorten the time required to transfer and prepare the samples, thus improving the operational efficiency and testing throughput. The running time has been optimised to return test results within 12–24 hours after arrival at the IDL.

Integrating tube decapping, tube recapping, barcode identification, automated liquid transfer and negative pressure protection, MGISTP-7000 can transfer 192 samples from swab sample tubes or plain tubes to 96-well microplates in 40 min. MGISP-960 is an automated workstation with a 96-channel pipettor head, used to extract nucleic acid, or the genetic material from the sample, and it can accommodate different sample batches to process 192 samples in 80 min or 32–96 samples in 55 min.

Image caption: Dr Ian Mackay, Senior Molecular Scientist, IDL.

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