WA-developed COVID screening to protect FIFO workers

An industry-leading screening system has been approved for use in a large-scale trial to help detect COVID-19 in the Western Australian fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workforce and protect remote communities.

Medical technology company Avicena will undertake regular screening of workers and contractors in the resources industry under the Sentinel Surveillance DETECT study, in collaboration with Curtin University.

Sentinel was developed in WA and was a recipient in 2020 of a $500,000 grant from the WA Government to assist in the development of the prototype.

In 2021, Avicena was awarded a $150,000 grant through the State Government’s New Industries Fund to help establish a facility for the initial production and development of Sentinel.

The system is designed to rapidly screen up to 4000 saliva samples per hour, more than 95,000 samples a day.

It uses state-of-the-art RT-LAMP chemistry and robotics with accuracy comparable to PCR tests, providing results significantly faster and at a substantially lower cost.

“We are delighted to be able to contribute to safeguarding the health and security of Western Australians with our innovative Sentinel technology that has been developed entirely in our own state,” Avicena executive chair and co-founder Dr Paul Watt said.

According to the WA Government, two Avicena instruments have already been delivered to European users.

“Avicena’s Sentinel system is a Western Australian developed innovation that will play a role in protecting the health and safety of our crucial FIFO workforce and remote communities during the trial,” Medical Research and Innovation and ICT Minister Stephen Dawson said.

“The speed of the system lends itself to large-scale screening, including workers arriving on a mine site, and will provide for more rapid isolation responses from infected individuals.”

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