How many tests have you completed so far?
Germann: We finished the first round of testing and did not detect any infections. We tested nearly 22,000 people in twelve business days. This includes all residents and staff members.
In the second round of testing we will retest about 12,000 staff members in nine business days. That’s because the nursing home and assisted living residents have lived in isolation for weeks, yet the personnel still has contact with the outside world of course.
Michel: Public discourse always focuses on testing capacities. The numbers that Ms. Germann mentioned reflect the entire testing process from start to finish. This literally means all processes from collecting samples on-site to providing the test results to the respective facilities. Needless to say, this is a challenge from a logistics, administrative, and infrastructure perspective that goes beyond the mere number of tests that laboratories can handle.
What are some other possible applications of the epiLab?
Germann: There will be more applications as we continue to loosen social distancing restrictions. If we develop rapid diagnostic tests, we could also test on-site in large companies and detect “silent carriers” in the workforce, thus preventing hidden hotspots of Coronavirus infection.
Earlier you mentioned your MEDICA trade fair participation. Could you see yourself collaborating with partners to manufacture mobile labs in series?
Germann: These labs are always custom-built and tailored to the needs of the users and the intended application. We are planning projects to build these types of mobile laboratories on a smaller scale with a modular interior. Users can then add the necessary equipment based on the respective needs and requirements of the application.
Michel: We are obviously not mobile lab manufacturers but we collaborate with many partners. In a way, you need "custom production line solutions" thanks to the complex requirements. It is a question of mastering the balancing act between series production as we know it from the automobile industry and custom-tailored solution. The market is still manageable, but the industry already has its eye on it. I believe there is definitely market potential.