Naperville bioscience lab taking aim at creating system to dramatically cut COVID-19 test processing time

The following is press coverage on Radiance Diagnostics’ bioscience lab in Naperville, courtesy of chicagotribune.com.

A Naperville-based bioscience laboratory could help address the backlog of COVID-19 testing across the country and eventually assist the United States in more quickly confronting a future virulent pandemic.

Radiance Diagnostics on the city’s northwest side is partnering with Associated Universities Inc., or AUI, a national nonprofit that facilitates scientific breakthroughs, to develop a local rapid COVID-19 testing process that can be replicated regionally across the United States.

 

Sivakumar Ramu

Sivakumar Ramu

President of Radiance Diagnostics in Naperville. (AUI)

“Radiance currently offers a variety of COVID testing, which screen for the presence of virus or specific proteins unique to the coronavirus,” said Sivakumar Ramu, president of Radiance Diagnostics.

“We look forward to AUI’s assistance in obtaining funding required to expand our testing platform to include the newly developed saliva rapid-test procedure and to train technicians to administer such tests nationwide,” he said.

Seeing the demand for fast and accurate results, Ramu said he and his wife, Manjot Kaur, began COVID-19 testing in July, initially processing a sample test every week or so. By October they were doing a couple hundred tests a week, he said.

Realizing they no longer could do it all themselves, Ramu said, they added additional personnel to collect and process samples.

The plan for 2021 was to shift the bulk of Radiance’s COVID-19 testing to saliva-based samples because the turnaround time is much quicker than testing via polymerase chain reaction, or PCR.

Previously, depending on the volume of samples, a PCR test — a slow and complex molecular scan that looks for the genetic material of coronavirus in samples — can take as little as six hours to produce results.

However, because there’s a backlog in PCR test processing in some parts of the state, it can take several days before an Illinois resident will learn the results, Ramu said.

Rapid tests only need 20 to 30 minutes to process so it’s perfect for travelers who need to meet state or country restrictions, students and staff heading back into a classroom for live instruction or companies that want employees to return to the workplace, he said.

To make the transition, Radiance would need additional equipment and personnel.

Ramu said he and his wife started Radiance Biosciences & Consultancy in 2015 with a focus on infertility.

They created a biomarker to identify the most viable embryo to increase the pregnancy success rate for the couples undergoing the in vitro fertilization.

It was the Naperville community that enabled the Lisle couple to get Radiance off the ground, Ramu said.

He received his business training through NaperLaunch at the Naperville Public Library, and the Feed the Seed Foundation, which works with NaperLaunch, provided a business startup grant, he said.

Meeting Woodridge resident Jeffrey Murley last year was serendipitous because he would help thrust Radiance forward by assisting the company on its next steps and helping create the platform to sustain the company beyond 2021, Ramu said.

Jeffrey Murley

Jeffrey Murley

Senior Adviser of Bioscience Initiatives at AUI

As a senior adviser to AUI’s Bioscience Initiatives, Murley said he was looking for a partner that could pilot the concept of a local bioscience lab with an eye toward replicating it regionally and nationally as a means of reducing the COVID-19 test backlog and providing the infrastructure to adjust more quickly to future viral crises.

Murley said the testing facilities could also reduce the bottleneck experienced by crime labs. Advances in DNA analysis and forensic science allow police agencies to collect more samples from crime scenes, he said.

A regional facility that tests for the presence of the coronavirus can be adapted for investigative applications, he said.

Ensuring the data collected remains secure is an integral part of the process, Murley said. That’s why AUI’s advanced cybersecurity capabilities through its subsidiary Woodstar Labs will provide Radiance an added layer of protection for continuity of operations and information safety.

David Catarious, director of cybersecurity programs for AUI, said COVID-19 researchers have been targeted by a range of malicious cyber actors.

“We’re excited to do our part to ensure Radiance’s research and development can proceed unimpeded from cybersecurity impacts,” Catarious said.

In addition, Radiance and other facilities need trained personnel to operate the equipment and follow the stringent safety and security protocols.

Murley said AUI’s Bioscience Initiative already works with community colleges to establish training programs through the National Science Foundation.

In this venture, Radiance will join the Bioscience Initiative to develop curriculum and training as well as internship opportunities for students.

This will ensure those who are being trained are fully capable of performing the complex testing procedures used by Radiance and other similar facilities across the nation, Murley said.

In addition, he said, AUI can create a workforce pipeline to address employers’ hiring needs for highly-skilled technicians with the ability to learn and embrace change in the rapidly evolving health care environment.

Would-be employees don’t have to attend a four-year institution to acquire these good-paying, highly specialized jobs, which will be in high demand, Murley said.

Students can be ready in two years at much less cost and time, and be fully training on equipment they will be using in their careers, he said.

The collaborations are expected to begin in January, and timelines have yet to be formalized.

Article by Chicago Tribune’s Suzanne Baker.

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