The Dakar Pasteur Institute, in partnership with British company Mologic, plans to manufacture 10-minute COVID-19 test kits with the aim of distributing them by June.
Mologic specializes in rapid diagnostics for epidemics such as Ebola, measles, yellow fever, dengue fever and malaria. It has received a grant of €1 million from the British government to work on this project in partnership with the Institut Pasteur in Dakar.
“Diagnosis is an essential weapon in the fight against this pandemic, and, once they are ready, these tests will allow an affordable, more precise and earlier diagnosis of the infection, limiting the spread of the disease,” Professor Paul Davis, co-founder and chief scientist at Mologic says.
“It’s as easy to use as a pregnancy test,” says Dr. Cheikh Tidiane Diagne, manager of the Senegalese platform Diatropix where the tests will be manufactured once the prototypes have been validated. Created in December 2018, this production unit was designed to produce tests – usually inaccessible and too expensive – for the diagnosis and surveillance of neglected tropical diseases.
The Covid-19 tests will cost less than one dollar and will be five to 20 times cheaper than current molecular tests.
“We produce according to demand to avoid losses locally in Senegal with cheaper labor and proximity to export. We are currently looking for donors and grants to support us,” says Professor Amadou Sall, director of the Institut Pasteur in Dakar.
“They must be effective and efficient above all. When the prototype is sufficiently robust, we will produce it [in Senegal] to make it available across Africa,” he says.
Currently, the production capacity is estimated at between two and 4.5 million tests per year. “We are currently thinking of increasing these capacities,” notes Diagne. This involves a phase of recruiting qualified and competent people to compliment staff has already been trained at Mologic in the United Kingdom.
“Senegal offers a remarkable history and tradition in research and development, education and in response to epidemics. The Pasteur Institute in Dakar is already producing a vaccine against yellow fever. It is even one of the four global manufacturers with WHO prequalification. Proof that the place has a unique set of skills that range from research to production,” says Joe Fitchett, medical director at Mologic.
“This Covid-19 crisis could be an opportunity to show that the capacity for innovation is enormous in Africa and that it is essential to increase local production on the continent,” says Professor Sall.