Science and Technology

Técnico laboratory joins the Portuguese Laboratory Network for the Diagnosis of COVID-19

The laboratory carried out 830 tests during the first week after the start of operation.

cientific research institutions have been crucial in tracking the spread of the new coronavirus. After a few weeks of adaptation and preparation, Técnico joined the Portuguese Laboratory Network for the Diagnosis of COVID-19 through the recently created “Laboratory of Instituto Superior Técnico (iBB / CTN)”. 830 tests were carried out from 28th April, when the laboratory began operating, to 4th May,

The team is composed of professors, researchers and PhD students, on a voluntary basis. The laboratory joins the Portuguese accredited laboratories to carry out these tests. The results are delivered within 24 hours to the competent authorities.

The biological material tested in the “Laboratory of Instituto Superior Técnico (iBB / CTN)” was collected in several care homes, in the region of Lisbon and Vale do Tejo, based on an agreement signed with the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security (MTSSS) and a municipality.

The creation of this laboratory involves two Técnico research units: the Institute of Bioengineering and Biosciences (iBB), led by professor Joaquim Cabral, and C2TN – Center for Nuclear Sciences and Technologies, led by professor Pedro Vaz. In order to meet the safety standards set by the National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge (INSA), an effective responsiveness from iBB and C2TN teams was needed, by adapting the Biological Sciences laboratories with equipment from the Stem Cell Engineering Research Group, both part of iBB, and the Laboratory of Technological Assays in Clean Rooms (LETAL) at C2TN.

The logistics activities – such as the coordination with Técnico services and other institutions involved, the acquisition of personal protective equipment and reagents – have been coordinated by professor Gabriel Monteiro, assisted by Dr Sofia Duarte namely in obtaining laboratory equipment. Professor Leonilde Moreira leads a group of volunteers who carry out the molecular tests at iBB. The volunteers also had the support of professors Nuno Mira and Nuno Bernardes in the beginning of the activities. Dr Sandra Cabo Verde coordinates the sample receiving procedure and virus inactivation at C2TN.

These molecular diagnostic tests aim to detect the presence of the virus in the organism, through the detection of its genetic material (RNA), from nasal or throat sampling. The group of volunteers at C2TN inactivates the virus in samples. Then, the samples are sent to Alameda campus, where the iBB team detects and extracts the eventual presence of the viral RNA.

Before the “Laboratory of Instituto Superior Técnico (iBB / CTN)” started its activities, the Covid-19 molecular diagnostic techniques were validated by the National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge, based not only on inter-laboratory tests using real samples shared by the microbiology service at Hospital de Santa Maria, but also on a procedure implemented by the Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM).

Professor Isabel Sá Correia is the director of the “Laboratory of Instituto Superior Técnico (iBB / CTN)”, which is now part of the Portuguese Laboratory Network for the Diagnosis of COVID-19, thereby making an important contribution to the fight against this public health emergency.