PCR Testing

In collaboration with the Okinawa Prefecture Government (OPG), a controlled laboratory at OIST has started Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19.

Updated December 28, 2020

On May 1, 2020, the DNA Sequencing Section, supported by the OIST Health Center and Occupational Health and Safety Section and in collaboration with the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG), established a controlled laboratory to provide PCR testing to the OIST community and the Okinawan Prefectural Government (OPG). This became only the third PCR testing lab in Okinawa to meet the needs of this prefecture during the initial spread of COVID-19.

Since the launch of this lab, the PCR Team has tested approximately 3,800 external samples. They worked many holidays and weekends, including all of August, so OIST could assist the Hokubu, Miyako and Yaeyama Public Health Centers in Okinawa's northern region and remote islands. All 190 positive results were reported to these health centers, and these inactivated samples have been stored should they be needed for further research.

The team is now wrapping up the first prefectural PCR testing program, and OIST has received letters of thanks for these efforts, one from the governor and another from the prefectural medical administration. Looking ahead, they are planning a new testing project with OPG, which will begin in 2021. They are also voluntarily taking part in a PCR testing accuracy management survey run by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which will review approximately 600 testing sites around Japan. The results of this survey will be available to the public in January 2021 along with a manual for accuracy control based on these findings.

May 1st, 2020

In collaboration with the Okinawa Prefecture Government (OPG), a controlled laboratory at OIST has started Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19. This will be the third laboratory in Okinawa that is capable of carrying out such tests.

Coordinated by OIST Provost Professor Mary Collins, who is a virologist, this project involves researchers and staff from the DNA Sequencing Section, the Protein Engineering and Evolution Unit, and the Occupational Health & Safety Section.

“The OPG will send clinical samples to us. We'll take them to a controlled lab and extract the virus RNA,” explained Professor Collins. “Once we’ve done that, the samples are safe, and we can run the PCR test. Most of the reagents we use came in the form of kits supplied by manufacturers overseas.”

The researchers are following approved health & safety protocols that have been recommended by the World Health Organization.

On 1st  May, the researchers performed control tests on four samples that had already been confirmed by one of the other labs to be positive or negative. By checking that their tests provided identical results, the lab confirmed that the OIST PCR tests were accurate.

“At the moment, the situation in Okinawa is fragile, with only two other labs on the island that are approved to perform this test,” said Professor Collins. “We're not sure how many samples we're going to receive at our lab but both OIST and the OPG were keen to set it up so that we have a back-up in the event that there is a surge in cases here.”

The PCR lab at OIST where the samples will be analyzed


The biological safety cabinets within the PCR lab at OIST.
Biological safety cabinets

Research Community Projects