SPH Virology Lab first in Canada to have new high throughput COVID-19 testing capability

March 24, 2020

On March 21, 2020, the Virology Lab at St. Paul's Hospital started using a new high throughput, fully automated COVID-19 testing method on our Roche 6800 instruments, the first such use in Canada.

The two Roche 6800 instruments are not new to our laboratory - they are used for HIV, Hepatitis B and CMV viral load testing - but they have now been validated and capacity has been created for COVID-19 testing.  Dr. Marc Romney, Medical Lead for Microbiology and Virology, says his team at SPH has been working around the clock with Roche Canada on getting this new automated testing system up and running as quickly as possible.

Kits for use on the Roche 6800 instruments are in very short supply.  If both Roche 6800 machines were able to run at full capacity, theoretically over 2,000 COVID-19 samples could be performed over a 24-hour period.  This is additional testing capability is on top of the mid-volume testing system currently in place at the SPH lab.

Dr. Romney was interviewed by Global News on March 26.  Other related articles include: Vancouver Sun, The ProvinceThe B.C. Catholic and St. Paul's Foundation.

Update: Dr. Romney was further interviewed by Black Press Media (BC Local News with video) on April 14.

This initiative is also featured in the "Behind the scenes of COVID-19, meet our pandemic dream team" article in the St. Paul's Foundation Promise magazine 2021.