A University of Cincinnati graduate helped develop a quick DNA test for COVID-19, or coronavirus.

NEWS RELEASE U.C. HEALTH: Michael Miller, Public Information Officer

CINCINNATI, OH (Monday, March 23, 2020) – Medical manufacturing company MiCo BioMed, which has an office in Cincinnati, licensed intellectual property related to UC’s lab-on-a-chip technology.

MiCo BioMed’s new PCR machine for coronavirus. (Provided) 

The company, based in South Korea, has developed a DNA/RNA detection device the size of a toaster that can provide rapid and reliable results in an hour, said Jay Han, a UC doctoral graduate who supervises the company’s U.S. operations.

The device has regulatory approvals for use in Europe. Now his company is seeking a health care partner to get U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals in the United States.

“Hopefully we can find a partner to get quick approval from the FDA for coronavirus detection,” Han said.

             Jay Han, U.C. Doctoral Graduate and supervisor of MiCo BioMed U.S. operatons (Provided) 

“The portable device can test bodily fluids to quickly identify COVID-19 using a DNA amplifier. COVID-19 can be confirmed within an hour, which is faster than traditional tests that can take three hours using bulky instruments in the lab,” Han said.

Each test cartridge can test up to six samples, so each device can test as many as 140 samples per day.

Small DNA samples from a patient are amplified to create enough DNA to generate a detailed study. The new device allows for a shorter test time, Han said.

U.C Engineering Research Center (Provided) 

Han earned a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science in 2005 after completing an undergraduate degree at Korea University. He studied under UC electrical engineering professor Chong Ahn, whose startup company Siloam Biosciences was purchased by the publicly traded MiCo BioMed in 2019. Han was one of the founding employees of Siloam in Cincinnati.

In his lab at UC, Ahn is developing simple and portable testing devices for infectious diseases such as malaria. For one experiment published this year in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering, he developed a portable lab that plugs into your smartphone, transmitting test results to your doctor. A patient simply puts a single-use plastic lab chip into his or her mouth for sampling saliva then plugs that into a slot in a credit-card-sized analyzer which plugs likewise into a smartphone.

A digital app UC developed can transmit the test results to a doctor or the patient.

Ahn said a smartphone device for coronavirus isn’t yet available. But his lab is working on developing point-of-care technology for coronavirus and other infectious diseases.



Han said the market for MiCo BioMed’s coronavirus device includes doctor’s offices, hospitals and health departments. But its ability to conduct tests remotely makes it especially useful for rural or isolated parts of the United States or home care services, he said.

“There are people who have trouble getting access to labs or hospitals. It takes a lot of time to travel,” Han said. “In that case, our system can assist and help people living in those areas.”

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