Rahul Nelli. (ISU photo)

Iowa State University researchers are trying out a machine which could greatly improve capacities for future epidemic-related testing surges.

ISU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory received nearly one-million dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study what’s known as Smart Chip qPCR technology. ISU researcher Rahul Nelli says it could significantly increase the number of tests the lab could run for things like COVID-19.

“Before, we were doing only 1,000 samples per day,” he says. “Now, we can do 9,000 samples per day. That’s the type of volume we are talking about.” The machine can hold thousands of samples on a single, small testing plate. Nelli says it would better prepare the lab for future disease outbreaks, for both animals and humans.

“What if there’s a new influenza outbreak? What if there is a SARS-COVID 2, a mutant SARS-COVID 2, which can again cause a pandemic?” Nelli says. “So, for that reason, I feel like we shouldn’t be complacent and we should be prepared.” He says it’s important to invest in this kind of improved technology now to prepare for future pathogen outbreaks.

The tech could be available to use in the ISU lab as early as 2025.

(By Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio)

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