JEDDAH: The Kingdom’s first COVID-19 RT-PCR test, developed at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, has been approved by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority.
KAUST startup NoorDX launched the new service at KAUST Health, and university president Dr. Tony Chan was the first to be tested.
Located in the Core Labs at KAUST, NoorDX provides a full suite of processing equipment using biotech diagnostics developed by Dr. Samir Hamdan, professor of bioscience, and his Rapid Research Response team.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of daily PCR tests in the Kingdom has risen from a few thousand to between 75,000 and 110,000 a day. Saudi Arabia has used kits developed outside the country to meet demand, but in-house capability increases self-reliance while reducing waiting time and related costs. The result is an economical, single-step, multiuse RT-PCR test priced significantly lower than previous tests.
The service begins at KAUST, and will expand to include communities throughout the Kingdom. People can expect high-accuracy results delivered to their personal devices via QR code in 24 hours, with most results returned in 12 hours. Travelers are good to go after downloading and printing the report. For a premium, results can be returned within five hours.
In addition to being the first Saudi test kit provider, NoorDX will be the first genomics entity in the Kingdom with fully localized capability, offering a portfolio of genomic services from early in 2022. Most clinical tests are currently sent abroad, and localized production is strategic to building genomics expertise within the Kingdom.
NoorDX chief executive Dr. Abdulaleh Alhawsawi said: “This is a great moment, both for KAUST’s ability to provide quality RT–PCR tests, and soon, gene sequencing. NoorDX will cater to Saudi communities with a full range of services and downstream applications, from dry to wet lab technologies, to analytics, to building the Saudi biobank and national genome.”
KAUST is transforming patient care through its partnerships. NoorDX is among a constellation of experts contributing to robust health services from the areas of academia, economic innovation, biotechnology and biopharma. They include Dr. Pierre Magistretti, director of the Smart-Health Initiative; Dr. Samir Hamdan and the Rapid Research Response team; Dr. Arnab Pain, director of the Pathogen Genomics Laboratory; KAUST Innovation; the Core Labs; the Office of the President; the Office of Research; the Department of Health, Safety and Environment; and KAUST Health.