CIIRC CTU and NPI scientists have developed a robot for COVID-19 testing

15. 04. 2020

Researchers from the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC), part of the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU), and from the Nuclear Physics Institute of the CAS developed a pipetting robotic station. The station, developed in the department of Prof. Václav Hlaváč at CIIRC CTU, was transported to the Central Laboratories Pavilion of Prague's Na Bulovce Hospital on Tuesday 31 March afternoon.

The station is designed for testing samples from people suspected of being infected with coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, causing COVID-19 disease. The key part of the robot (named „Pipeťák“/Test-tuber) is the precise metering pump provided by the NPI Department of Radiopharmaceuticals.

Among the NPI staff, Daniel Seifert from Department of Radiopharmaceuticals (system design), Radomír Běhal from Department of Nuclear Reactions (construction design) and Jindřich Stanislav (production of machine parts in Department of Nuclear Spectroscopy workshops) participate in this project.

Robotic station Pipeťák consists of a universal robotic manipulator, the precision pumps capable of replacing manual pipetting (transferring a small amount of different chemicals from test tube to other test tube) and precision built-in laboratory scales. The proposed system can solve one of the fundamental tasks of testing itself: preparation of the reaction mixture for subsequent RNA virus multiplication and its detection by PCR method. Pipeťák is able to prepare a larger number of samples than the laboratory technicians have prepared so far and eliminate human errors. By default, the laboratory tested dozens of samples per day, now up to four hundred samples. The machine should work in Na Bulovce Hospital only during the COVID-19 crisis. Then it will be disassembled again and its most expensive parts (robot, pump, scales) will serve for the original research.

The full text of the CTU press release in Czech is available here. Pipeťák attracted well-deserved media attention: Czech Television and Czech Radio were among the first to inform about it.

 Pipeťák Test-tuber during construction

 Photos: Roman Sejkot, CIIRC CTU