Tech Transfer eNews Blog

U of Southern Denmark develops throat swab robot for COVID-19 testing

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 3rd, 2020

Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) have developed the world’s first fully automatic throat swab robot to safely test patients for COVID-19.

The device features a 3D-printed, disposable tool that holds the swab and manages to reach the precise spot from which the sample is to be collected. The robot then puts the swab into a glass and screws the lid on to seal the sample.

Thiusius Raheeth Savarimuthu, professor of robotics at SDU and head of the research team behind the technology, was one of the first to be swabbed by the robot. “I was surprised at how softly the robot managed to land the swab at the spot in the throat where it was supposed to hit, so it was a huge success,” he says.

The technology is meant to reduce the risk of healthcare staff becoming infected while administering COVID-19 tests. Another advantage is that the robot doesn’t get tired or bored of the work.

“The task entails long working days of monotonous work. At the same time, the employees are in great demand in other functions,” says Kim Brixen, medical director at Odense University Hospital. “Large-scale testing is part of our community’s reopening strategy. The robot has great potential for mass screening for COVID-19 in the healthcare sector, but also in connection with border control or at airports.”

The SDU team has launched the start-up Lifeline Robotics A/S to take the technology to market. With support from the investment firm REInvest Robotics and other backers, Lifeline aims for the robot to be swabbing its first patient in a month.

“The Covid-19 pandemic abounds. The ambition is, therefore, that we must get on the market as soon as possible,” says Søren Stig, director of Lifeline robotics. “The plan is that we have a prototype that swabs patients by the end of June, and that the robot is completed and ready for the market this fall when the second COVID-19 wave hits.”

Source: SDU

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