Ahn said a smartphone application for coronavirus isn’t yet available. But his lab is developing a DNA lab-on-a-chip for a smartphone that can test coronavirus as well as other infectious diseases.
The market for MiCo BioMed’s coronavirus device includes doctor’s offices, hospitals and health departments. But Han said he thinks its ability to conduct tests remotely makes it especially useful for rural or isolated parts of the United States or home care services
“There are people who have trouble getting access to labs or hospitals. It takes a lot of time to travel,” Han said. “In that case, our system can assist and help people living in those areas.”
Coronavirus testing in the United States has been a hot topic this month. As of this week, South Korea has tested about 300,000 people, identifying the virus in 8,000 patients. This has dwarfed the number of tests conducted so far in the United States at just 60,000.
“They prepared earlier,” Han explained. “They made a testing kit in two days when coronavirus began to spread. And they began testing every person who arrived at ports in the country.”
UC’s Ahn said South Korea had more experience dealing with previous deadly epidemics such as SARS. The country's transparency of data, massive early tests and social cooperation in dealing with the outbreak also helped, he said.
“People are willing to keep their social distance and undergo rapid and massive testing to keep the outbreak controlled,” Ahn said.
Han said his experience in UC’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science prepared him for the challenges of running a biosciences company.
“UC provides a lot of opportunities to learn new things. The PhD program was well-developed. The coursework was thorough for the advanced research. I worked in the lab and ERC clean room four days a week, so I had opportunities to learn about everything in the lab,” Han said.
“I was in electrical engineering, but at the same time I learned biology and chemistry in departments of biomedical engineering and chemistry,” he said. “It’s a very good interdisciplinary program."