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'Bior' Covid-19 test samples will be prepared by robot in Latvia

Scientific institute 'Bior', which is one of the Covid-19 testing labs in Latvia, will now be able to prepare test samples in larger volumes and more quickly, Latvian Television reported February 7.

The preparation of samples, which is a time-consuming process, will be completed by a robot in the future. The facility will allow up to ten thousand samples a day. The cost of tests could also shrink.

The robot grasps and unscrews a test tube, takes a sample and transfers it to a tray that will be operated by other equipment, analyze and detect the presence of the virus. A robot does it faster than a human. Bior researchers need to unscrew hundreds and even thousands of test tubes a day by hand.

The robot works at a speed of 192 samples in 40 minutes.

“It saves a lot of the work force, (..) does a job where there are no resources of thinking or analysis. It's mechanically moving the sample,” said Bior representative Irēna Meistere.

The facility allows up to ten thousand samples a day to be prepared.

“The robot doesn't get tired, he can't get confused, the robot is very accurate. This excludes the human factor. The robot makes it possible to increase capacity. Together with the costs of reagents, this makes it possible to reduce costs per sample,” explained Olga Valciņa, deputy director of Bior laboratories.

As Bior estimates, the cost of one saliva test could reduce from the current €38 to €25. The facility was lent free of charge to Bior by the manufacturer, the biotech company Latvia MGI Tech, which is part of the Chinese gene research company BGI Group. It is the world's largest gene-sequencing company. In the end of 2019, Latvia MGI Tech plant and innovation center opened in Riga, where laboratory equipment is produced. The equipment was received from the company several months ago, but the robot needed to be tested and tested with an accredited method.

“Now we're safe, we've done full validation. We know that these machines can be used, and they work precisely,” Valciņa said.

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