Unlike current test methods – which use blood, saliva or nasopharyngeal samples from the nose/throat –, the new method will use exhaled air. No fewer than 40 imec researchers are currently working full time on developing the new test, which only requires people to exhale for 1 minute in order to detect the coronavirus. A first prototype has already been made at imec’s lab in Leuven, Flanders. Needless to say, expectations are high. “But the outlook is hopeful,” confirms leading virologist Marc Van Ranst (KU Leuven).
According to the researchers, the test will give a reliable result about someone’s infectivity in just 5 minutes. This will allow for much faster and more extensive testing, an important condition to managing epidemics and limiting their socioeconomic impact. For the development and clinical validation of the new test method, imec will be working together with Leuven University Hospital. By the summer of 2021, imec wants to start testing a functional prototype at Brussels Airport, which is one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and vaccine distribution hubs.