IOCB Tech, a subsidiary of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences, has donated kits for 10,000 isolations of viral RNA for COVID-19 testing to Public Health Institute Ostrava (PHI Ostrava). The donation comprises ten kits, each of which is ready for 1,000 individual isolations, at a total value of 780,000 CZK (c. 30,000 EUR).

Kits for isolation of viral RNA are an essential part of testing for COVID-19. Despite the epidemic being on the decline in the Czech Republic, local epicenters are still appearing. Currently, the most serious situation is in the Karviná district, where the infection has spread namely in the coal mines. The need for much broader testing of the endangered population, however, has resulted in a lack of test kits. Whereas during the state of emergency laboratories were able to immediately purchase necessary material, they now have to engage in time-consuming competitive bidding. For that reason, IOCB Tech decided to help PHI Ostrava get through this period and provide it with the necessary material free of charge and right away.

“PHI Ostrava is a routine laboratory that’s been testing samples for the presence of the new coronavirus in the Czech Republic the longest, and has been doing so nonstop, including Saturdays, Sundays, and Public Holidays. Since March 2 to the present day, we’ve tested nearly 45,000 samples, the most of any laboratory. That wouldn’t have been possible without efficient help from IOCB,” says Jakub Mrázek, head of the Department of Molecular Biology at PHI Ostrava. “The market with laboratory diagnostics still isn’t functioning properly – there are regular shortages of key components for diagnostics, and it’s very hard to keep up the continuity of our services. The donation of isolation kits is a flexible and quick solution for us in a difficult situation.”

“It’s fortunate we stocked up and have a sufficient supply of tests for SARS-CoV-2,” says IOCB Tech director Martin Fusek. “Because PHI Ostrava would have had to open a lengthy bidding process, we decided for a donation to provide immediate help. I’d like to thank colleagues Kristýna Blažková, Pavel Šácha, Kateřina Šolcová, and others who helped make this donation possible.”

The kits for isolation of viral RNA were developed at IOCB by the team of Pavel Šácha in collaboration with the laboratory of Radek Zbořil at the Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials (RCPTM) and a number of other research centers during the coronavirus crisis and the global shortage of standard commercially available kits. The kits were also validated and modified in collaboration with laboratories throughout the Czech Republic, including PHI Ostrava, which has been using them ever since.

“We’re happy that PHI Ostrava could actively participate in the testing, development, and perfecting of the kits, which can now be put to use where they’re needed in a very short time,” adds Mrázek.

Currently, manufacturing and distribution are being overseen by IOCB Tech.