The silver lining of the pandemic? A diagnostic revolution

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Young Innovations, based in Missouri, manufactures COVID-19 test swabs. They are sterilized and are packaged in medical grade pouches. They have a 6 “polypropylene handle with a molded breaking point; after swabbing, the user tears off most of the handle and drops the end of the swab into a transport tube.

You might not consider the swab design to be notable. But what is remarkable is that Young Innovations is a company that manufactures dental equipment. Like many companies that are not known to produce diagnostic kits, following the emergency use clearance from the FDA last year, they have expanded to test swabs because the demand is there and because they have the know-how in manufacturing.

Before the pandemic, Young was already producing hundreds of millions of swabs, except these were meant to apply dental adhesives rather than absorb snot; turns out they’re not that different, and they just had to figure out the molded click feature.

These humble Young’s swabs are actually part of a much larger trend:

COVID has brought about “a shift in diagnostic technology,” said John Frymark, vice president of product development and strategy at Young Innovations. Plastics news. Over the past year, many companies have launched new technologies for home test kits under the Emergency Use Clearance from the United States Food and Drug Administration.

“It’s going to go beyond COVID testing,” as the telehealth industry continues to grow, he said. “Everything from cancer detection to testing for STDs and anything that would go through the historical chain of laboratories. We have received many inquiries [for rapid test kits] of various companies on [new] nominations, “he added.

“It will be a revolution for the diagnostics market,” Frymark said. “From a test that would take 24 to 48 hours and cost $ 150 to process, to now, something you can do in 15 minutes for $ 20 or $ 30.”

It may seem absurd to say that a pandemic that infected 232 million people to date and killed 4.8 million, has a silver lining. But this has resulted in a great demand for affordable and easy-to-use test kits, prompting traditional manufacturers to expand their business into non-traditional offerings that will benefit society.

These kits, and the lab system they connect to, will need a good design to be effective. Product design professors looking for assignments of global significance to their students should take note. (And for an example of redesigning a kit that better fits an analytics infrastructure, have them check out Kate Strudwick’s work.)


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