Fighting COVID-19 with technology

A recent Trinity College graduate is contributing to the fight against coronavirus through his background in medicine and drug discovery.

Martin-Immanuel Bittner is a medical doctor who graduated with a DPhil in Oncology in 2017, and cofounded Arctoris, a company that developed and operates a fully automated drug discovery platform.

Based in Oxford, the company enables researchers to design and configure experiments online and have them executed in the Arctoris robotic facility. This means researchers worldwide can focus on project and experiment planning as well as data analysis, leaving the actual experiment execution to robotics – with increased accuracy, precision, and quality of data. With many labs in lockdown or just starting to emerge from lockdown, the company provides researchers with continued access to experimentation so they can accelerate their research even while working from home. Arctoris also has dedicated additional resources to establish assays for COVID-19 research, supporting scientists working on new treatment options for the disease.

Dr Bittner says: ‘As a company built by scientists, for scientists, we support academic centres and biotech companies in the UK and abroad by providing them with uninterrupted access to 24/7 experimentation. Especially during the current pandemic, enabling research continuity and thus making sure we continue the search for new treatments and therapies is a public health priority.’

Bittner is also an elected member of the Young Academy of the German National Academy of Sciences, and has recently led a research project on how to effectively increase testing capacity for COVID-19, which could alleviate one of the bottlenecks in releasing countries from lockdown right now. Together with a group of mathematics professors, his group analysed how to use a process called sample pooling for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics.

Modelling scenarios for the UK, the United States and several other countries, the group has provided a framework and the practical guidance on how to increase testing capacity with the existing infrastructure by a factor of eight to ten. The findings generated are already being evaluated by several governments as a way to increase testing capacity, and the group will continue building the tool further to generate even more insights and guidance for laboratory personnel and policymakers worldwide.

Posted: 5 June 2020

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