Việt Nam National University Hồ Chí Minh City researchers make COVID-19 prevention, control products

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Dr. Nguyễn Thụy Vy and two students, Lê Trần Đăng Khôi and Võ Hồ Mỹ Phúc, produce protein from Ecoli bacteria in laboratories. — Photo courtesy of VNUHCM

HCM CITY — Students and scientists at the Việt Nam National University – Hồ Chí Minh City (VNUHCM) have carried out extensive research and developed products that help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Out of 2,000 projects from 79 countries, one on producing protein from Ecoli bacteria in laboratories by a student team from the University of Science won sponsorship from the Agence Universitaire de La Francophonie a society of universities offering training in the French language.

Firstly, they collaborated with a company in the bio-technology industry to carry out the project under Dr. Nguyễn Thuỵ Vy, head of the genetics department at the university’s biology and bio-technology faculty. The research was prompted by the fact that asymptomatic COVID patients and those with mild symptoms were believed to be a hurdle to control the pandemic in the community.

To detect infection, many countries use antibody tests. The advantages of this method are that it is fast, easy to deploy on a large scale and has great accuracy. However, Việt Nam does not have suppliers of SARS‐CoV‐2 viral protein antigens, making it difficult for companies to seek for manufacturing antibody testing kits. Dr Vy said: “We use a technology to produce protein from Ecoli bacteria at low cost. Around the world, most proteins are produced from animal tissue.” Vy and two students, Lê Trần Đăng Khôi and Võ Hồ Mỹ Phúc began the research in early June with sponsorship from AUF and they created products within three months.

“The project does not only contribute to COVID-19 prevention but also inspires other students to take up research. The product is useful for COVID-19 tests with fast, accurate results and affordable prices.”

Lê Trần Đăng Khôi of the University of Science. — Photo courtesy of VNUHCM

The VNUHCM’s National Key Laboratory of Digital Control and System Engineering’s scientists also made an automatic chamber for disinfection and obtaining samples from patients without making contact.

The chamber disinfects automatically before the next person enters for giving samples. Though ultraviolet disinfection technology is used, the UV rays do not directly touch peoples’ bodies and so are not harmful to health officials or patients. Moreover, the high-efficiency particulate air filter technology combines with UV to completely kill viruses and bacteria remaining in the air after being sucked out of the chamber.

Another VNUHCM’s member university, the University of Technology, has innovated dozens of useful and convenient products to serve the community in terms of COVID-19 prevention and containment.

Scientists at the Bách Khoa Research Centre for Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Technology have also made a mobile disinfection system with air filters to ensure clean air is discharged in the environment. The technology has been transferred to companies for commercialisation and mass production.

A research team at the University of Technology’s material technology faculty has made masks that could be used by healthcare workers for continuous hours.

One of VNUHCM’s strategies is to continue focusing on scientific and technological development and innovation to help implement national and southern region development strategies and to raise its international profile. — Photo courtesy of VNUHCM

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Huỳnh Đại Phú, the faculty dean, said when COVID-19 broke out, one urgent issue was a shortage of medical equipment. Healthcare workers faced a high risk of infection because of working for many hours in an environment without negative pressure chamber. It was very important for them to use preventive clothes, goggles and masks to prevent the risk of contracting the virus, and his team made these masks with a bacteria and air filter membrane to avoid infection, Phú said.

The medical workers at Trưng Vương Hospital are using them.

One of VNUHCM’s strategies is to continue focusing on scientific and technological development and innovation to help implement national and southern region development strategies and to raise its international profile.

As of October 2020, it had filed 527 applications for patents and 566 technology transfer contracts and scientific services that fetched revenues of VNĐ104.2 billion (US$4,5 million). VNS

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