The New Zealand-developed coronavirus test that's 100 times cheaper than others

A much-cheaper method of testing for coronavirus is being promoted by researchers at Otago University.

The 'Bomb Bio' system extracts DNA from samples using microscopic magnetic beads - and it's being used worldwide as countries ramp up testing.

This Dunedin lab is a magnet for clinicians around the world. Otago University researchers are refining a new method of helping improve diagnostic testing for coronavirus.

"When the pandemic hit we knew that we could have something to offer, because this was so cheap and provided an alternative method for purifying the genetic material of the virus," says Dr Tim Hore, senior lecturer at the Otago University department of anatomy.

The 'Bomb Bio' system extracts and purifies DNA and RNA using tiny magnetic beads so it can be tested for viruses.

The team have repackaged existing technology and made it freely available.

"So that anybody could use it. We could make the raw material in labs just like this, and it could be spread around the world," Dr Hore tells Newshub.

Most commercial testing is locked down through intellectual property and trade secrets. Labs pay companies for every test and have to buy their machines.

In contrast, 'Bomb Bio' is a community platform - and about 1 percent of the cost.

"As much as it cost to do 400 DNA or RNA extractions using kitted reagents, we can do 40,000," Dr Hore says.

It's being used in regions in the UK, US, and Colombia where kits are in short supply and governments are ramping up community testing.

It's an example of collaborative coronavirus testing based in Dunedin which could help save lives around the world.