Professor, Bioscience | Deputy Director, KAUST Smart-Health Initiative
Samir Hamdan's group is working on a local solution to develop a pipeline of reagents for use in biomedical and clinical lab applications. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a real challenge for the entire world to cope with the dire need for reagents and diagnostic kits. This unprecedented situation has pushed biotechnological companies to the limits in their capacity for sustaining their obligations toward the growing demand, thus threatening the continuity of the entire supply chain for various reagents required to produce the existing and new diagnostic kits. The majority of the kits require reverse transcriptases and DNA polymerases to amplify the viral genomic RNA to detectable levels by diverse techniques. It is unforeseen for how long the production lines of these enzymes and several other reagents in the diagnostic kits can sustain the growing demand for the entire world. Over several years, Hamdan's group has successfully established a robust production of DNA polymerases in their laboratory and has started working on producing reverse transcriptases.
The aim is to scale up production to meet the needs of the Kingdom for these enzymes. The group also patented DNA polymerases produced from microorganisms in the Red Sea that can work under harsh conditions. They will be using these DNA polymerases to devise new detection assays. Hamdan's group will also utilize their resources and expertise in DNA replication and repair and in fluorescence-based detection of protein binding to nucleic acids to develop rapid fluorescence-based assays for the detection of COVID-19.