Meet Huo-Yan Air Lab For Airport

Meet Huo-Yan Air Lab For Airport

Huo-Yan Air Lab For Airport is the new quick detection solution in the fight against the pandemic.

We are living in a time where global cooperation and collaboration has never been more important, we must work together to overcome a threat that is shared by all. Novel Coronavirus (COVID‐19) had a huge impact on Civil Aviation, making world passenger traffic collapses in an unprecedented decline in history.

1. Introduction

The pandemic COVID-19 caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 has affected the health of millions of people, some of them even lost their valuable lives. This virus is highly contagious, and it spreads mainly among people and mainly through respiratory droplets. Before effective vaccines are developed and produced, travel restriction is adopted in a number of countries to constrain this devastating pandemic. However, this could not last for so long since large scales of people staying at home greatly reduces incomes to maintain basic living costs and hampers the development of industries and the global economy.
The airport is a major type of public transportation hubs, especially internationally. The whole civil aviation industry associated with world passenger traffic has collapsed with an unprecedented decline in history. In fact, no matter for citizens, for governments or for airports and airline companies, there are undoubtedly strong needs to relieve certain travel restrictions and meantime keep tight prevention on COVID-19 spreading. A corresponding solution that BGI provides is to establish the capacity of COVID-19 detection within or near the airport so as to provide all passengers a reliable and quick test and precisely control the pandemic. There are multiple ways for COVID-19 tests such as virus nucleic acid test, virus antigen test, and antibody test. Among them, the nucleic acid test is the most reliable one because it directly detects the existence of the pathogenic virus and it has extremely high sensitivity and specificity. It is also the recommended method of WHO for the identification and laboratory confirmation of COVID-19 cases.

Nucleic acid test by qRT-PCR, the most suitable method for airport COVID-19 detection

Since this virus is pathogenic, any related operations need to be conducted
following the protection standard of Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) and in qualified labs with at least Biosafety Level-2 (BSL-2) standard.
Early in April this year, BGI has developed Huo-Yan Air lab, an inflatable BSL-2 laboratory that can be deployed at different locations in only a week to conduct the virus-related operation. Huo-Yan, which means fiery eyes, is expected to discern the virus quickly and accurately, thus identifying positive cases as soon as possible. BGI also provides reagent kits and equipment that can be incorporated into the lab for functions of not only pathogen testing but also other genetic testings such as oncology tests and reproductive health screening. Notably, the nucleic acid test for COVID-19 can be completed in around 4 hours with Huo-Yan Air Lab deployed in the airport, since it saves the time of sample transportation between airports and detection labs and optimized experimental procedures empowered by automatic instrument significantly reduces the operation time.
Currently, the qRT-PCR kit developed by BGI has been distributed to over 185 countries for over 20,000,000 tests. Huo-Yan Laboratories have been deployed in more than 80 countries worldwide. Together with solid techniques and experience, BGI has strong confidence to help any country, any organization that is in need of the prevention and control of COVID-19.


2. Quick Detection Solution for airport

To satisfy the demand of reopening the airport thus recovering traffic, economy, and daily life while tightly controlling the COVID-19 threat, BGI has specifically designed a total solution which includes an inflatable biosafety lab, test kits, related equipment, and technical support to enable airport a powerful and timely COVID-19 testing capability. Comparing to POCT, which can only detect one sample per test, BGI’s solution has higher throughput. This solution is the fastest solution available under the premise of ensuring accurate results,which allows the total time cost from sample collection to report delivery is around 4-5 hours with a 20 min Batch interval time.



2.1 Huo-Yan Air Lab (Airport Special Edition)

The most outstanding feature of Huo-Yan Air Lab is its air-supported membrane structure, which renders several main advantages of low cost, quick installation, foldable transportation, and flexibility in terms of deployment site selection and detection throughput configuration.
A standard set of Huo-Yan Air Lab (Airport Special Edition) contains four relatively independent chambers in the function of sample reception, sample preparation, and sample test as well as a change room for personal protective equipment, respectively. To maximally reduce contamination, equipment and consumables are not suggested to be shared between different chambers, while the samples which have to be passed between different chambers need extra attention to be paid during the transportation. For instance, use closed transfer boxes and spray with sterilization solutions timely. These areas together require a three-dimensional space of 30-meter long, 10-meter wide, and 5-meter high. Below is a 3-D schematic diagram of the Air Lab and a floor plan which illustrates the 4 chambers with different functions and specifically designed routes for technician, samples, and biowastes in order to reduce cross-contamination.

Each chamber of Huo-Yan Air Lab is equipped with a fresh air system in order to guarantee air cleanliness. To prevent the contaminated air from diffusing into the external environment, the air pressure in the lab areas can be controlled as lower than the outside. The pressure control is achieved by adjusting air supply and exhaust (e.g. supply air> exhaust air → laboratory positive pressure; supply air <exhaust air → laboratory negative pressure). In addition, the air inlet and outlet are all cleaned either through a highly efficient filter system or by strict sterilization. The below diagram demonstrates how air pressure and cleanliness are controlled.

Highly integrated modules are placed at both ends of Huo-Yan Air Lab. The main entrance/exit side contains a wastewater sterilization tank, an outdoor component of the air conditioner, a fresh air machine and a flashlight-controlled smart door. The other side integrates a biowaste transfer bin, a fresh air machine and an emergency door. Through intelligent coordination between the fresh air system and the air conditioner, ambient environmental parameters including temperature, humidity, PM2.5 and air pressure can be in-time monitored and digitally controlled. Here we suggest the indoor temperature and humidity set to 18-27 ℃, 30-70%. Equipped with flashlight interactive technology, the transfer bins and doors can be controlled without physical interactions. This on one hand minimizes the possibility of cross-contamination, on the other hand, it provides greater convenience for technicians wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE). Moreover, the information of technician accessing into the lab and the transfer of samples and biowastes can be digitally recorded and easily traced back when needed.

Another device with high intelligence is an upgraded robot. With powerful interactive ability, it has been further exploited with two new functions that are critical for a pathogen testing lab. It can spray sterilization mist to clean any viruses floating in the air. The mist spraying can be adjusted to three different levels of intensity, and it can last for three hours at least, which is far above the daily needs of air sterilization. It can also measure the body temperature of lab technicians through a far-red sensor. By putting hand or moving forehead about 20 centimeters close to the sensor, this robot will instantly feedback if the body temperature is within or beyond the normal physiological range, thus acting as a health surveillance.

2.2 Detection Kits

BGI provides the comprehensive reagents and materials required to simplify collection, storage, and instant detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Sampling kit is working for collecting samples with inactivated preservation solution;
RNA extraction kit is working for MGISP-NE32 automatic extraction system, it cans help extraction step to complete in 9 mins;
RT-PCR detection kit is working for qPCR machine to complete RT-PCR step and get the result from a sample. It also has high sensitivity and high specificity. The detection kit has a lot of certification from different countries below.

2.3 Key Equipment

BGI provides more than 10 equipment for total solution, there are 5 key equipment below. In this solution, the MGISP-NE32 is an automated nucleic acid extractor adopting magnetic rod technology. Together with nucleic acid extraction kit, MGISP-NE32 is able to extract and purify nucleic acid of 1-32 samples in 12 min. Meanwhile, MGISP-960 also is an automated extraction system which able to extract and purify nucleic acid of 32-192 samples in 90 min. qPCR machine is able to amplifies and detect nucleic acid of 96 samples in 100 min.

2.4 Detection capacity configuration

Configuration Principle:


  • Whole solution including: sampling, sample preparation, nucleic acid extraction, qPCR test, data collection & analysis, excel report.
  • The total time cost from sample collection to report delivery is 5 hours (virus inactivation step included)/ 4 hours (virus inactivation step not included) Batch interval: 20 min
  • The average speed of samples collection, the first step of COVID-19 testing, is preliminarily assessed to be 20 min for 200 people (10 booths working at the same time). Therefore, the numbers of equipment and staff for the following steps are also configured to meet this speed.

2.4.1 Sampling

This step can be either finished at Arrival Hall or Immigration Check, will do case by case. For 200 samples, we plan to have 10 booths and 10-15 skilled sampling personnel with average time cost 60 to 90 seconds per sample. These samples will be put into 3-4 packages. After all samples sealed and packaged, we will transfer together to the Huo-Yan Air Lab.
When samples arrive at Huo-Yan Air Lab, technicians will double check the package and receive samples.

2.4.2 Sample Preparation

Each sample package needs a bio-safety cabinet for unpackage and arrangement, a skilled technician working around 30 mins and two computers for information recording.
Optional —— Virus Inactivation
If virus inactivation is required, three ovens will be used to operate this step which costs extra 60mins.

2.4.3 Nucleic Acid Extraction & qPCR Mix adding

Each MGISP-NE32 can handle 32 samples per 12 mins with a skilled technician. In this solution, three skilled technicians repackage 200 samples into the plates corresponding to MGISP-NE32 in 18 mins. Six skilled technicians operate six MGISP-NE32 extracting nucleic acid in 12 mins. Then three skilled technicians will combine 3 MGISP-NE32 plates into one 96-well plate in 5 mins and add qPCR mix (prepared by a skilled technician positioned in the amplification area) in another 5 mins.

2.4.4 qPCR test

The skilled technician who prepares the qPCR mix will put the plate with samples and qPCR mix into qPCR machine and run the test program. Each qPCR machine can finish 96 samples in 95mins. To meet the design of 20-min interval between sample batches, we need 13 qPCR machines in total, extra 2 qPCR machines as backup. Each qPCR machine needs a corresponding computer for data acquisition.

2.4.5 Data Analysis & Report

This step can be arranged in any rooms with local area network. Three computers for 3 skilled technicians to handle all data of qPCR and generate positive or negative results in Excel spreadsheet format. Extra computer is for whole solution backup, including sample reception and data analysis.

2.5 Technique support

BGI provides flexible design of Huo-Yan Air Lab for different detection throughputs, mainly by adjusting the numbers of experimental instruments and technical staff.
Personnel engaged in relevant testing and sample transportation shall receive laboratory training of biosafety and master the standard operating procedures, biosafety protection knowledge and practical skills. Following theoretical courses and laboratory technique training can be provided.

BGI also provides standard operation procedures, experimental record forms, and kit manual to facilitate the standardization of sample handling and the traceability of the experimental process, which is meant to ensure the accuracy of the test results. At the same time, video on standard operation is provided. It is suggested to perform the test based on demonstration video and if necessary, contact application scientists in time for support. The list of related documents is as follow:


September 2020
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