University accelerates the process of 3D printed nasal swabs for COVID-19 testing

Image of the 3D printed swabs in the hands of a researcher.
The sterile swabs have been included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods by the Therapeutic Goods Administration as part of COVID-19 test kits. Image: supplied

The University of Melbourne has brought together industry partners and researchers for the development of an Australian-first; locally manufactured 3D printed nasal swab for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing.

3DMEDiTECH, a partner of the University’s Australian Research Council Training Centre for Medical Implant Technologies (ARC CMIT), has produced the swabs to respond to increased Australian demand for COVID-19 testing.

ARC CMIT Manager, Associate Professor Jia-Yee Lee said that nasal swabs for sample collection are an essential component of COVID-19 testing kits and are a much-needed resource.

“The development of the swabs is a key example of industry and research collaboration leading to quick and crucial innovation, thanks to federal funding provided to the ARC CMIT,” Associate Professor Lee said.

Researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) – a joint venture between the University and The Royal Melbourne Hospital – were connected with 3DMEDiTech by ARC CMIT and have tested the nasal swabs for accuracy.

University of Melbourne Professor Deborah Williamson, Director of Clinical Microbiology, Royal Melbourne Hospital at the Doherty Institute, led a clinical evaluation to assess the 3D printed swabs for safety and efficacy.

The trial was conducted at The Royal Melbourne Hospital Staff Clinic and the results were published recently in the Medical Journal of Australia.

“We have faced major shortages of laboratory consumables considering the increased need for COVID-19 diagnostic testing,” said Professor Williamson.

“The 3D printed swabs, created using medical-grade nylon fibres, have proven to be safe for use for sample collections from patients, and effective in detecting SARS-CoV-2 in clinical and laboratory studies.”

The sterile swabs have also been included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods by the Therapeutic Goods Administration as part of COVID-19 test kits.

3DMEDiTech Co-Founder Paul Docherty said the company is pleased to have developed an Australian-made sterile swab which can help address the challenges of a global pandemic.

“Australia is currently dependent on testing kits imported from overseas manufacturers,” Mr Docherty said.

“Our 3D printed nasal swabs present an opportunity to reduce Australia’s dependence on imported kits. We can also scale our printing quantitates to address the clinical need in almost real-time.”

This innovation speaks to the benefits of collaboration involving universities, hospital partners and commercial companies.

Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP has announced the swabs will be added to the National Medical Stockpile with the first delivery of the swab test kits scheduled for 11thSeptember.

  • About the Doherty Institute: Finding solutions to prevent, treat and cure infectious diseases and understanding the complexities of the immune system requires innovative approaches and concentrated effort. This is why The University of Melbourne – a world leader in education, teaching and research excellence – and The Royal Melbourne Hospital – an internationally renowned institution providing outstanding care, treatment and medical research – have partnered to create the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute); a centre of excellence where leading scientists and clinicians collaborate to improve human health globally.
  • About 3DMEDiTech: 3DMEDiTech is an Australian company which develops and delivers personalised medical devices utilising 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies such as robotics and machine learning. 3DMEDiTech re-engineers analogue, high-volume medical devices which will clinically and commercially benefit from the complete digitisation and automation of the design, customisation, fabrication and supply-chain processes. 3DMEDiTech is a partner of the ARC CMIT.
  • About ARC CMIT: The University of Melbourne’s Australian Research Council Training Centre for Medical Implant Technologies (ARC CMIT) was established in 2019, funded for four years by the Australian Government through the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Program. The ARC CMIT brings together organisations from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, China and Belgium, representing the global supply chain of the 3D printing medical device industry. The Centre trains PhD students and early career researchers at the University of Melbourne, Flinders University and Griffith University to undertake research that meets the needs of industry and hospital partners.