The Orfeu Programme has carried out 20,000 PCR tests to date

By May 22, 2020June 15th, 2020CRG, IBEC, IRB Barcelona

The BIST centres Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico (CNAG-CRG), part of the CRG, Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) have carried out more than 20,000 PCR tests to date to detect COVID-19. A total of 17,547 samples have been registered in the CRG node and 5,248 in the PCB node.

The tests are part of the Orfeu Programme, the Government of Catalonia’s mass coronavirus screening service. The Catalan public health system can currently do up to 17,000 PCR tests every day, not including the Orfeu Programme’s capacity of processing 4,000 samples per day.

There are two nodes of mass detection where the samples are processed each day. One is at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) and is coordinated by the CRG and the other in the Barcelona Science Park (PCB), which is jointly coordinated by IRB Barcelona, ​​IBEC, and the Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico (CNAG-CRG).

The CRG has published the number of samples registered and processed in its node to date in a dashboard here, as well as a graphical summary of the step-by-step test, which illustrates the process from sample collection to the validation of the test by a microbiologist in a hospital.

Both nodes use real-time quantitative PCR (RT-PCR) to look for the presence of the coronavirus’ genetic material in the samples. This is the most reliable way of detecting infected people, including those without symptoms. The health system can detect and isolate these cases, helping the government introduce the progressive de-escalation of lockdown measures.

“The Orfeu programme has been a great challenge, requiring an unprecedented collaboration between our healthcare and research systems to develop a logistical chain at breakneck speed,” says Luis Serrano, director of the CRG. “It was worth it. It is an essential investment to find out who is infected, even if they do not have symptoms of coronavirus, something key to unlock the following stages of deconfinement and the return to a new normal.”

“The research centres have made a great effort to fine-tune these mass detection platforms, which is a reflection of our commitment to society,” explains Francesc Posas, director of IRB Barcelona. “In the coming weeks we will be able to restart our usual scientific activity, to combat diseases such as cancer or diabetes.”

“The Orfeu Programme has shown both the spirit of personal commitment of our many volunteers, who from the first day expressed their total availability, as well as the capacity for collaboration and common effort among technical personnel, researchers and centres to obtain maximum output”, highlights Josep Samitier, director of IBEC. “From IBEC, this activity complementary to our COVID-19 research as part of our wide commitment to society.”