Innovative mobile suitcase laboratory aims to transform infectious disease detection

Researchers from the University of Helsinki, working alongside EU partners, have secured substantial funding through an EU HORIZON grant for an ambitious project. Their focus is on creating a mobile suitcase laboratory to enhance the detection of emerging infectious diseases.

In a world challenged by evolving environmental conditions and rapid globalization, infectious diseases have seen a notable uptick. Zoonotic infections, like coronaviruses, avian flu, and swine flu, have highlighted the need for swift, accurate diagnostics.

An EU HORIZON funded project involving the University of Helsinki and multiple EU partners aims to establish strategies for the early detection and effective management of disease outbreaks.

The consortium’s project consists of four elements: mobile genomic sequencing, smartphone-based diagnostics, a comprehensive One Health platform and bioinformatics for field analysis.

Led by the University of Leipzig, the project aims to offer accessible and adaptable diagnostic solutions, empowering healthcare professionals and institutions to manage outbreaks more effectively. The total funding for the project is around €6 million, of which the University of Helsinki will receive just under €460 000.

Collaboration with Nairobi

The project includes close collaboration with the University of Nairobi, as it could potentially address Kenya's distinct healthcare challenges.

“The adaptability of the portable lab could significantly improve outbreak responses in remote, resource-limited areas, benefiting not only Kenya but also other African nations”, says Tarja Sironen, PI of this project at University of Helsinki.

Anticipated outcomes of the project include improved diagnostics capacity, enhanced outbreak control measures, a better understanding of infectious agents, and new tools for policymakers.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has unequivocally highlighted the pivotal role of swift and accurate diagnostics in managing infectious diseases. Our project endeavors to harness state-of-the-art technologies to provide solutions that are both timely and reliable, even within the most challenging environments," remarks Dr. Ravi Kant, a key member of the consortium and co-author of the grant.

For more information, please contact:

A Mobile Laboratory

In the EU HORIZON funded project, researchers are developing a mobile laboratory consisting of these elements:

  • Mobile Genomic Sequencing: A mobile Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform, aimed at swiftly identifying infectious agents during outbreaks to expedite response measures.
  • Smartphone-Based Diagnostics: User-friendly smartphone tools for nucleic acid tests are set to enhance disease detection and monitoring.
  • Comprehensive "One Health" Platform: A unified digital platform integrating data from labs, treatment centers, and epidemiological teams is on the horizon, empowering advanced surveillance programs.
  • Bioinformatics for Field Analysis: Advanced bioinformatics pipelines for real-time analysis of sequencing results, even in areas with limited internet access, will facilitate informed decision-making during outbreaks.