Post by RichD
The first COVID cases occurred in China, Dec. 2019.
The first tests were developed in about six weeks.
How did they do that?
Decades of research on virology, on mRNA isolation and amplification, on sequencing, ... When scientists say that basic science matters, this is an outstanding example.
What do you need to do to develop a test for a virus?
1. Isolate the virus. Lots of basic research done over a very long period of time has made us very good at this.
2. Sequence the virus' genome. We've had a few decades of experience at amplifying and sequencing mRNA, which involves a lot of steps optimized by many, many scientists working in many, many labs around the world, eventually leading to kits that can be bought off the shelf to do all of the necessary operations (assuming you have a normally equipped biochemistry lab). Most of the companies in this business are themselves, in one way or another, spinoff companies from university labs.
3. Nail down a protocol for repeating this with samples obtained from the field so that it's reliable and repeatable in any suitably equipped lab. Any virology lab has tons of experience with this kind of optimization.
Every single step of this process was pioneered in a university lab somewhere, and most of them were refined in these places or in spinoff companies from university labs. All of that basic research carried out over decades made us ready to develop testing protocols for Covid-19.
Marc R. Roussel
Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute