Project ARK partners with medical associations to make PCR tests cheaper and accessible

Published June 18, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz 

Private sector-led Project ARK (Antibody Rapid Test Kit) has formally entered into a partnership with medical organizations for the pooling of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to make the process cheaper, accessible, and timely.

The pooled PCR testing, which is a joint endeavor between Project ARK and the Philippine Society of Pathologists (PSP), with the support of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), is seen as a “game changer” in a “landmark research meant to balance health and the economy.”

“The project aims to increase the testing capacity by pooling more samples to a testing kit,” Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said in a virtual presser on Thursday.

He said this will give businesses an alternative aside from the rapid test kit that identify antibodies instead of the virus.

In the pooling process, samples of multiple individuals are analyzed in a single PCR test. If a positive result comes from a single batch of pooled tests, further individual assessments will be made.

Countries such as China, Germany, and Israel are among those doing pooled testing, which could serve as a guide for countries seeking to make more productive use of limited test kits, Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, also Project ARK-PCR initiative’s private sector chief implementor, explained

She said the project will “step up what we started as to simply donating PCR machines.”

She explained that the project will allow the optimization of available test kits; reduce workload on laboratory staff; eliminate large group of negative cases; provide more affordable, available and drastically increased capacity; and provide local government units and businesses better and clearer direction.

Its main goal, she said, is to give the working public confidence in returning to work while sustaining the gains of the initial lockdown.

“When a workplace becomes infected or exposed, operations have to be suspended. This means loss of income, difficult life, small businesses closing down,” Garin said.

“PSP and PMA are not only making a game changer. They hold a major role in our survival where health meets economy, where testing fills the gap in making social distancing, hygiene practices and other new normal behaviors more effective,” she added.