CONTAIN Mobile Lab

CONTAIN is a decentralised and open-source approach for pandemic testing facilities.

We have developed a rapid-response mobile PCR testing lab that can be shipped in any location of need. Each container is equipped with liquid handling robots and qPCR machines and can provide results in as little as 5 hours. A single lab can be operated by a single person and can process up to 4000 tests a day.

The testing involves reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). In short, it consists in extracting viral RNA from a sample and amplifying it to a measurable level so that it is possible to see whether a person is infected with COVID-19.

While most countries decided on a centralised testing strategy. OpenCell decided to build mobile labs focusing on a decentralised model. This allows for broader coverage and brings testing to any location of need.

Each lab is identical while being connected to each other, making it easier to train staff, move staff between labs, adapt protocols remotely and minimise the time for validation.

The biggest challenge of COVID testing wasn’t scientific but logistical. PCR testing is the gold standard for diagnostics and one of the most common processes used in molecular biology.

We have optimsed the labs for PCR and automated the majority of the process. The lab is built to follow 1 proctocol over and over again, each time to the same quality. This approach allowed us to squeeze an entire hospital department into one shipping container. One container can test over 4000 tests a day.

To keep track of the 1000s of samples each day, we built a software to track each sample from when a person gets swabbed until the patient has its result. Our web-based platform tracks every step during the testing process to ensure the quality is at its highest standards, and we can identify any problem along the way.

The project got developed and delivered in just 6 months to take over the testing program for Jersey, ensuring that every person entering the country had been tested within 8 hours of entry.

Open Cell’s project is open source. Over 150 volunteers worldwide contributed towards the challenges involved in developing testing capacity. The blueprints and protocols are available to everyone in the form of a living document allowing people worldwide to contribute to and reproduce the project.