As demand for Covid-19 test kits surges globally, three diagnostic companies in Hong Kong and neighbouring Shenzhen sprang into action to help contain the worst public health crisis in a generation. “We are seeing huge demand for our extraction kits, with order requests in the range of 10,000 to 100,000 units a day,” Ricky Chiu Yin-to, the chairman of Hong Kong-based Phase Scientific International, said in an interview. “We will be delivering [the kits] in the next couple of weeks.” The company last week launched a kit used by laboratories to extract RNA genetic materials from nasopharyngeal swaps for tests to determine if someone is infected by the novel coronavirus, which causes Covid-19. The company, which also has an office in California where it was founded in 2015, has taken orders mainly from hospitals, governments universities and commercial laboratories in North and South America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. PSI’s scientists in Hong Kong, Suzhou in mainland China and California have worked round the clock over three weeks to develop the extraction kit, which Chiu said could allow labs to input 10 to 50 times more RNA materials specific to the virus than the current golden standard method. “The advantage of our liquid phase extraction method compared to the existing solid phase extraction technique is that it can produce a concentration effect on the target material for improving confidence of the test results,” he said. The company has tested its kit on newly-admitted patients at the Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, the first epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic. Of 20 Jinyintan patients tested, five returned positive results with the conventional method, compared with seven who were tested with PSI’s extraction kits. It has sent another 200 extraction kits to the hospital to generate a greater results sample. The UK is targeting a tenfold increase in daily Covid-19 tests to 100,000 by April 30, while the US Food and Drug Administration has provided “unprecedented flexibility” to laboratories and test kit makers to offer tests. Chiu said the company did not require FDA approval to sell kits, but wanted to obtain an endorsement from it to bolster customers’ confidence in them. It does, however, require CE quality certification from Europe and regulatory approval in China to sell there. PSI, which has also been developing genetic sample preparation technology for cancer screenings, is backed by the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Joseph Tam, the founder of Hong Kong prenatal tests provider DiagCor Bioscience, as well as the Hong Kong and US governments. Meanwhile, across the city, Hong Kong Science Park-based cancer genetic screening services provider Sanomics is preparing to launch a Covid-19 test if the city’s government decides to do mass screenings. “Our digital PCR platform, capable of high-definition scrutiny of samples, can help meet the city’s need to scale up screenings and detect patients with low viral counts,” said Stanley Sy Ming-yiu, Sanomics’s chief executive. “We can be ready within a month.” The company is backed by Beijing’s Berry Genomics and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, the parent company of the world’s largest jeweller by sales. More than 100 companies are offering or making preparations to offer Covid-19 test products globally, according to medical news portal BioWorld. Shenzhen-based genomic sequencing services provider BGI Genomics, which said its Covid-19 kit was the first in China to have won authorisations to sell in China, Japan, Europe and the US, is rapidly expanding exports. It has tripled its daily production capacity to 2 million kits over the past 10 days. It has produced more than 10 million kits, which are being distributed in 76 countries, CEO Yin Ye said. It has donated 134,650 kits, while third-party organisations have donated 178,900 of its kits. Sign up now and get a 10% discount (original price US$400) off the China AI Report 2020 by SCMP Research. Learn about the AI ambitions of Alibaba, Baidu & JD.com through our in-depth case studies, and explore new applications of AI across industries. The report also includes exclusive access to webinars to interact with C-level executives from leading China AI companies (via live Q&A sessions). Offer valid until 31 May 2020.