The COVID-19 pandemic has popularized PCR (polymerase chain reaction), a type of molecular diagnostic test for infectious diseases. It is the most sensitive test for detecting the genetic material of bacteria and viruses that cause communicable diseases. But it requires equipment and materials that cost between US$22 and US$81 per PCR, according to the UK's National Health Service (NHS).
To democratize these tests, Everardo Gonzalez, PhD in Biotechnology, has created a way of massifying the molecular diagnosis of infectious diseases in people, animals, and plants. With his new techniques, this Mexican scientist has managed to economize and even make it portable without losing sensitivity. Thanks to this breakthrough, MIT Technology Review in Spanish has chosen this young man as one of the Innovators under 35 Latin America 2022.
After years of researching the Zika and Ebola viruses, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic Gonzalez became more aware of the need for sensitive mass diagnostics, easy to use, without expensive equipment and reagents and usable anywhere. In Mexico the cost of PCRs is even higher because they are largely imported. The biotechnologist has succeeded with his research in reducing the cost of PCR kits for COVID-19 to US$5 "to make it accessible to more people."
Despite this, PCR still requires a laboratory to diagnose the diseases. To get rid of that dependence on expensive equipment, Gonzalez has developed an inexpensive, portable, remote molecular diagnostic kit that is just as reliable and fast.
The impact of the biotechnologist's innovation goes beyond human health. His tests also detect other viruses that affect animals such as pigs, improving their quality of life and the efficiency of the livestock sector. González explains, "We apply biology to solve the problems we have in life. It is very motivating to find the answers in nature."
His two products are about to hit the market to help detect communicable diseases in humans and pigs. González hopes to have an impact on the health and livestock sector and to scale up production once they are on sale.