Thousands of additional COVID-19 screening tests made possible thanks to the skills and collaboration of Walloon public-private actors.

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PRESS RELEASE

Sirris & HTP EUROPE are members of Plastiwin.

The University of Liège (ULiège) has developed with its scientific teams a test that automates the large-scale detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. The technique developed at ULiège allows it to perform today up to 5,000 PCR-type tests per day. As part of monitoring the epidemic, ULiège (member of the federal testing platform) will further increase its capacities in the coming weeks and months. After having developed the automated method and securing the supply of reagents, ULiège is developing with the Mécatech cluster, Sirris and two Walloon companies, HTP Europe in Mouscron and MTU in Evregnies, an original method of production in Wallonia of 96 wells. In risk of shortage, these boxes are necessary in the sample analysis phase. The autonomous production of this element secures the current testing capacity in Belgium and is also one of the keys opening the way to an evolution of the ULiège analysis method in order to significantly increase the number of daily tests.

This project was made possible thanks to the collaboration of various public and private actors, offering a fruitful combination of Walloon skills. In these difficult and uncertain times of COVID-19, more than ever it is together that we find solutions, this project is a fine successful example, which shows that Walloon players can demonstrate efficiency, agility and speed in these times of crisis.

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In order to be able to carry out the screening in number, it is necessary to have the polymer parts illustrated opposite. These parts commonly called "96-well boxes" are no longer available on the market due to the current high demand. We estimate an urgent need for 40,000 kits (composed of 6 parts: 1x the right part, 1x the left part and 4x the part in the center of the photo). In order to quickly fill this shortage of parts, an alternative solution had to be found to ensure their supply quickly and in sufficient quantity.

From then on, ULiège immediately contacted the MecaTech Pole, a mechanical engineering competitiveness cluster which brings together more than 250 industrial and scientific players involved in collaborative innovation projects in Wallonia. The MecaTech Pole then focused on the needs identified to coordinate an initial approach to the project and ensured the consistency of actions between public and private actors.

 

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“Anthony Van Putte, Managing Director of the MecaTech Pole: The Pole is at the service of the Walloon economic fabric in the mechanical engineering sector. Our job is to support the promoters of innovative projects in Wallonia and to bring them together in order to develop unique skills. These skills allow manufacturers to shine in the face of competition on the market. During the period of the COVID-19 crisis, the Cluster has mobilized more than ever in the medical devices sector to offer rapid and effective solutions to fight the virus. This experience further underlines the importance of a dynamic and connected ecosystem. "

The MecaTech Pole and SOWALFIN decided to quickly activate Sirris in Liège. Sirris, the collective center of the technological industry, has combined for 70 years, 150 technological experts, a high-tech infrastructure and an extensive network to help manufacturers make the right technological choices and implement them successfully.

 

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“Jean Claude Noben, Regional Director for Wallonia of Sirris: At Sirris we did not hesitate to put our experience and our technical / technological capacities at the service of this project. As soon as we were contacted by SOWALFIN, we mobilized our experts and our network of manufacturers to offer concrete technological solutions. The project could quickly be started and we ensured the follow-up, with all the industrial partners concerned, until the production of the parts in series. After only 5 weeks, the parts were validated by ULiège ”.

Sirris quickly took charge of monitoring the technical development of the project with the manufacturers. Not having the technical definition of the parts to be produced, Sirris scanned existing parts and established the 3D models of the components necessary for the success of the project. The rest of the project aimed to set up the industrial sector in order to produce injected parts in large series. Based on its network of industrial partners, Sirris was able to mobilize a mold maker into an injector very quickly. In addition to 3D scanning and part modeling, Sirris also validated the geometries by producing 3 visual and functional prototypes before starting the next step, which consisted of designing a mold to inject the thousands of parts thereafter. ULiège needed large series, it was a question of manufacturing more than 40,000 parts at the start. Since 3D printing cannot produce so many parts so quickly, nor with the necessary quality, it was necessary to find manufacturers in order to produce them on a large scale. Sirris also provided continuous support for the industrialization and operational implementation of industrial production by the industrial players MTU and HTP Europe.

 

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Fabrice Bureau, Vice-Rector for Research at ULiège and one of the designers of the automated PCR test method: Since our first thoughts in March to provide our region with an increased testing capacity, we have always wanted to '' be the least possible dependent on products at risk of shortage. This is essential in the context of the pandemic. We did this by securing the supply of reagents. Today, we are marking a further step by ensuring production in Wallonia of the 96-well boxes required for testing, with companies and technological centers located throughout the region. I remain impressed by the capacity of our Walloon scientific and economic ecosystem to be creative, responsive and efficient. This is an important element in the perspective of the evolution of our method, on which we are already working, to achieve significantly greater screening capacities by the fall, when we will have to redouble our efforts. be careful to monitor the circulation of the virus.

 

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"Eric Haubruge, Consultant in charge of innovation, regional development and international relations at ULiège: It is the agility and speed of private and public players who have been able to find technical solutions to enable development tests developed at ULiège for large-scale screening for COVID-19. Our solution required quick action as we were unable to find the parts needed to develop our screening tool. Contact with the MecaTech Pole was quick and efficient. Together with SOWALFIN and the Pole we were put in touch with Sirris and a few weeks later the first injected parts were available. A beautiful Walloon story! "

 

The team set up:

ULiège - Mecatech - Sowalfin - Sirris

 

Industrialists gathered for the project:

HTP Europe: injector in Dottignies

MTU: mold toolmaker in Evregnies

For more information, interviews or photos:

 

Marie-France Rousseau - Communication Manager Sirris

0498 919 456 – marie-france.rousseau@sirris.be

 

ULiège communication / press service

0494 572 530 – dmoreau@uliege.be

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About Sirris

Founded in 1949 by Agoria, Sirris is the collective center of the Belgian technological industry The 150 experts of Sirris, the collective center of the technological industry, each year help nearly 1,300 companies to make the right technological choices and carry out their projects innovation with success. The combination of experts with our exclusive high-tech infrastructure, spread across the country and our extensive network of (inter) national partners, gives us a unique position in the field of industrial technological innovation in Belgium. The approximately 2,400 Belgian companies that are members of Sirris have access to a comprehensive range of services and knowledge. More information on www.sirris.be

 

About Mecatech

The role of the Pole is to support the transformation of companies to create the jobs and activity of tomorrow, by setting up and carrying out innovative projects with an international vocation. Over the past twelve years, the Cluster has been able to support 127 projects led by industries, mostly SMEs. These industries are among the best performing in Wallonia. The MecaTech Cluster does not act alone but in collaboration with other players in the ecosystem (research centers, competence centers, federation, clusters and poles, etc.) to implement actions that are most appropriate to the needs of the 'companies. More information on www.polemecatech.be.

 

About the University of Liège (ULiège)

Founded in 1817, the University of Liège is one of the great universities in Belgium, welcoming 25,000 students, a quarter of whom are of international origin (128 nationalities). ULiège is the public university of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation with 11 Faculties. It is located in 3 cities of Wallonia: Liège, Gembloux and Arlon. Its courses benefit from several international quality labels: EQUIS, AACSB, EUR-ACE, EAEVE, Conférence des Grandes Ecoles. ULiège is in contact with 1000 educational and research institutions around the world. It plays an important role as a creator of activities with high added value. It energizes its R&D centers in promising fields such as biotechnologies, life and medical sciences (human and veterinary), agronomy, space and engineering sciences, the environment, etc. by bringing together researchers, companies and public operators. Furthermore, it creates numerous spin-off companies (more than a hundred in activity). ULiège is a major employer in Wallonia: 5500 employees, including 1450 teachers and 3000 researchers. With the CHU de Liège, there are more than 10,000 direct jobs spread over three provinces. www.uliege.be / # ULiège / @UniversiteLiege