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Thermo Fisher Develops Sentry Device To Detect COVID-19 In The Air

Thermo Fisher Develops Sentry Device To Detect COVID-19 In The Air

Source : Medtech Insight

In a bid to improve the surveillance of COVID-19 in hospitals, Thermo Fisher Scientific announced the release of its AerosolSense Bioaerosol Sampler on 24 March.

The device, roughly the size of a hotel safe, processes indoor air to detect any SARS-CoV-2 particles present. It can sample 200 liters of air per minute, Siqi Tan, general manager for environmental and process monitoring at Thermo Fisher, told Medtech Insight.  

Moreover, it can surveil an area of roughly 2,000 square feet, or 20,000 cubic feet – potentially multiple rooms. The device is so sensitive that it can detect a SARS-CoV-2 concentration of one particle per three meters cubed of air, according to Tan. 

The company focused on simplicity in the design of the device to ensure anybody would be able to use it, he said. 

“There are only three simple steps to operating the device: you open the door, you insert the cartridge, and you close the door,” he said. “Once the sampler finishes its job, you open the door again you pull out the cartridge. This cartridge goes into a bag, and then to the lab.”  

Tan also explained that Thermo Fisher’s device is eight to ten times more sensitive than current measures used to monitor the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in hospitals. “Most of the countermeasures today in hospitals beyond masking and social distancing are focused on surface swabbing,” he said. 

A beta test in a field hospital in Massachusetts allowed healthcare workers to improve containment procedures. By locating machines on either side of the containment, they provided rapid and accurate confirmation of the containment’s effectiveness. 

Affordability was another key issue considered by Thermo Fisher. The device will assist in the gradual reopening of hospitals, and potentially other venues, but it must be affordable. Tan said that Thermo Fisher had addressed this by offering it for a list price under $5,000. 

Tan compared this upfront purchase price to the rough cost of running a polymerase chain reaction on a swab, which he said was approximately $120. Given a room requires multiple swabs, and thus multiple incurrences of this $120 cost, sampling multiple rooms, multiple times per day, can become very expensive. The AerosolSense Bioaerosol Sampler only incurs the cost of one polymerase chain reaction test per sample. Given that it can sample a larger area than a swab test, it will likely be a cost-saving measure to implement. 

This announcement coincides with Thermo Fisher’s 23 March announcements of two collaborative COVID-19 programs.  

The first is with Color Health, Inc. to develop a COVID-19 testing program for US schools, following $10bn of US government funding for in-school testing.

The second partnership is with lab-automation company Artificial, which will work with Thermo Fisher to develop an integrated automation platform for Thermo Fisher’s COVID-19 testing platform. This partnership will improve testing throughput and support global surveillance of COVID-19 prevalence. 

By Barnaby Pickering