EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- The Bay Area's reputation as a biotech research hub is proving to be a valuable asset to ramp up novel coronavirus testing. An East Bay laboratory has stepped in to help.
Robots are being used for surgery, guided by human hands. They're also adept at doing repetitive chores. That's how the company Zymergen is using them to develop a better COVID-19 test kit.
Zymergen is a biotech company that normally focuses on some of the world's biggest problems, such as breaking down plastic for re-use. Or developing new repellants to ward off insects that can spread viruses.
A few weeks ago, it was enlisted into the campaign to develop reliable COVID-19 test kits. Zymergen's Emeryville facility was tapped by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and UC San Francisco to test the neutral solution, also known as a buffer, that's used to collect and analyze swab samples taken from a patient's nose to determine if the person is infected. A robotic system was used due to the precision required that humans can't do as accurately.
"Robots don't get hungry and bored," said Zymergen CEO Josh Hoffman. "So for these very small, very simple tasks that have to be incredibly precise, a machine is better than a person."
Robotics were able to do the evaluation over and over, 24 hours a day.
Zymergen hopes its contribution to a next-generation testing kit will help not only to save lives but also to address concerns that the results are not always accurate, leading to false diagnoses.
"Small variations in the process can lead to unacceptably high positives," said Hoffman. "So you tell someone you have COVID-19 when you don't, or false negatives where you said you don't when they actually do. So this provides a very high degree of confidence that the results will be accurate. Yes."
The fact that the Bay Area is a center of biotech research is an asset in the fight against COVID-19, and Zymergen is one example how its facilities and expertise are helping.
If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.
Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
- Live updates about coronavirus outbreak in US, around the world
- Coronavirus data: See how the curve of COVID-19 cases is bending in each Bay Area county
- Everything you need to know about the Bay Area's shelter-in-place order
- Coronavirus Doctor's Note: Dr. Alok Patel gives his insight into COVID-19 pandemic
- Stimulus calculator: How much money should you expect from coronavirus relief bill
- WATCH: ABC7's interactive town hall 'Race and Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation'
- What Bay Area tenants need to know about rent payments, eviction amid COVID-19 outbreak
- Here's how shelter in place, stay at home orders can slow spread of COVID-19
- Coronavirus Timeline: Tracking major moments of COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco Bay Area/
- Coronavirus and the new normal of living in the San Francisco-Bay Area -- COVID-19 Diaries
- Happy hour goes virtual as people try to be sociable while social distancing during COVID-19 crisis
- Coronavirus Outbreak: Here's why you should practice 'social distancing'
- DRONEVIEW7: What the Bay Area looks like during the coronavirus shelter-in-place
- ABC7's drive around San Francisco shows empty streets, businesses shuttered
- Symptoms, prevention, and how to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in the US
- List of stores, companies closing due to coronavirus pandemic
- Canceled late fees, free services available amid COVID-19 crisis
- Here's how you can help during COVID-19 pandemic
- How to maintain learning during school closures
- No masks but here are 100+ products that may help protect you against novel coronavirus germs
- Here's a look at some of history's worst pandemics that have killed millions
- Asian community fighting racism, xenophobia, bigotry as world fights COVID-19