South African entrepreneurs break new ground with rapid coronavirus test kit

Daniel Ndima and Dineo Lioma have come up with a Covid-19 testing kit that delivers result in approximately 1 hour

Two South African based entrepreneurs have devised a coronavirus test kit that provides results in 60 minutes.

Daniel Ndima and Dineo Lioma are Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellows and head up Cape Bio, a dynamic applied genomics company, a division similar to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Lioma, who was based in the UK for a while, has a master's degree in micro and nanotechnology and said she wanted to lend her expertise to benefit local scientific research.

Lioma added that she wanted to work in health and help South Africa progress.

“There was not a lot going on in micro and nanotechnology here, so I came home. I wanted to give back," she said.

Ndima emphasised the importance of testing speed, saying that the ability to obtain rapid test results will allow the team to gain a clearer picture of viral infections and will help them introduce interventions with greater effectiveness.

He said that this intervention will remain important even after lockdown, as South Africa has a population of over 55 million people who will need to be monitored on an ongoing basis.

The development of locally produced qCPR test kits will reduce the need for foreign imports and allow a faster testing process among the population.

Ndima added: "Our kits help pathologists isolate and identify a virus' DNA or genetic material from an infected person. This makes it possible to detect the virus accurately in a laboratory."

Cape Bio's work has already received support from international partners, including Canadian biotech company PlantForm Corporation.

Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm CEO, said: "Canada does not currently have a blood test to detect Covid-19 immunity. We are developing a test that will identify the convalescent immune population, which is critical to disease monitoring and control.

It will increase the reliability of data about the progression of Covid-19 and allow public health agencies to accurately determine when people have become immune to the disease and are therefore able to return to work and other social care duties."

South has so far confirmed 3,300 positive cases and 58 confirmed deaths. More than 1000 people have recovered from the virus.