Fighting coronavirus: UP grad co-develops ground-breaking COVID-19 test kit

Posted on July 15, 2020

University of Pretoria (UP) alumnus Daniel Ndima and business partner Dineo Lioma have developed a ground-breaking COVID-19 test kit that will provide results in just over an hour. The CapeBio-SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR Kit boasts improved efficiency, sensitivity and specificity.  

“SARS-CoV-2 is a single-strand RNA virus that was identified as the causative agent of COVID-19 disease infection,” explains Ndima, who graduated from UP with an MSc degree in Biochemistry (Structural Biology) in 2016. “The kit is used for the in vitro detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in specimens from patients who are suspected of having COVID-19. The test kit can be used to detect SARS-CoV-2 in specimens extracted from throat swabs, nasal swabs, washes and aspirates, and from bronchoalveolar lavage fluid [fluid extracted from the lungs].”

Ndima is the founding CEO of CapeBio Technologies, a dynamic applied genomics company that sources, develops and manufactures molecular biology reagents, enzymes and kits sourced from indigenous African microbial hotspots.

Ndima says he and Lioma are aware that South Africa and Africa relies heavily on imported test kits, such as those used to test for TB, HIV and other diseases. They understood that this would be the case for COVID-19 testing, and decided to create a local solution.

“With the production of our COVID-19 test kits, we hope to help provide more localised access to testing solutions for the continent’s health care systems,” says Chief Operating Officer Dineo Lioma. “Our passion is to develop technologies that radically solve health care challenges in Africa and to build a world-leading biotechnology company.”

“Our current kits are developed in-house,” adds Ndima. “CapeBio Technologies is developing other disruptive innovations with its Research and Development partners. Given the current circumstances, we hope to respond to the South African demand for COVID-19 test kits, and later provide Africa and the rest of the world with them.”

The Bloemfontein-born scientist has been the recipient of multiple awards and scholarships for excellence in academia, social responsibility, leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives. He is a Mandela Rhodes Foundation scholar (Class of 2015), a Brightest Young Minds alumnus and was nominated for the Standard Bank Rising Star Award by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Ndima is also a Fellow of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. He attributes some of his success to his former lecturer and supervisor Professor Wolf-Dieter Schubert, who remains Ndima’s scientific mentor to this day.

CapeBio Technologies expects to launch the test kits shortly and sales will commence once the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority permit has been obtained. Kits will be supplied to both public and private pathology labs, and any other labs involved in COVID-19 testing, once distribution has been approved by the National Health Laboratory Services.

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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