National University of Singapore Develops New COVID-19 Swab Designs

July 2020

Two research teams from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed three new nasopharyngeal (NP) swab designs, which will be used in testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  The first one, ‘Python’, is produced using 3D-printing technology while ‘IM2’ and ‘IM3’ will be produced using injection molding which is inherently faster than 3D printing as multiple units of the swabs can be produced in a given cycle.

The COVID-19 outbreak has created a global surge in demand for nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs since they are a key component in testing SARS-CoV-2 virus. The new developments will help ensure Singapore has a sustainable supply of NP swabs. Furthermore, these locally produced swabs will be priced lower than the imported swabs.

Patents have been filed for both the 3D-printed and injection molding swabs, but both designs are free for use in Singapore. The 3D-printed Python swab is being mass-produced by two local companies, Structo Pte Ltd and Eye-2-Eye Communications Pte Ltd. The IM2 and IM3 swab designs are undergoing clinical trials at the National University Hospital and Singapore General Hospital. Currently, the research team is working with four companies, including TNC Optics & Technologies Pte Ltd, Meiban Group Pte, Inzign Pte Ltd, and Forefront Medical Pte Ltd, to mass manufacture and sterilize the injection-molded swabs.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “As countries progressively emerge from lockdowns and reopen their economies, mass, repeated, testing is being widely adopted as a key public health strategy to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 infections. We are proud that our researchers have stepped forward at this time of need.” Prior to this development, Singapore has been relying on suppliers from the United States, Italy, and other parts of Europe.

(Sources: National University of Singapore; The Straits Times)

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