Coronate tests: DKMS laboratory supports Dresden University Hospital

The DKMS Life Science Lab and Dresden University Hospital join forces in the fight against the pandemic.


The DKMS laboratory will be responsible for RNA isolation, the most complex partial step in the coronate process. The University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden can thus triple the number of possible coronate tests on site.

"Open your mouth, put the sticks in, be a donor" - the DKMS Life Science Lab typifies thousands of tissue samples from potential stem cell donors for blood cancer patients all over the world every day. Now the laboratory staff will also be supporting the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden in the fight against the novel corona virus. This will enable the hospital's laboratory to perform three times as many corona tests in the future as before.

Cough, fever, corona? The number of people who need and should be tested is growing rapidly. Nationwide, 47 laboratories (source: Gesellschaft für Virologie e.V.) currently perform corona tests. Depending on the location and number of cases, many of them are already reaching their limits.

"This makes it all the more important for medical and research institutions to stand together now, exploit synergies and pull together," says Dr. Alexander Schmidt, Managing Director of DKMS.

"We are very pleased that with the DKMS Life Science Lab, we have been able to gain a high-performance laboratory as a competent partner that will stand by us in this crisis quickly, pragmatically and with the utmost commitment," says Professor Michael Albrecht, Medical Director of the hospital. "Together we can thus provide certainty even faster and advise and care for patients with regard to an infection.

Täglich 600 zusätzliche Coronatests möglich

Specifically, the DKMS Life Science Lab will be responsible for the isolation of ribonucleic acid (RNA) from throat swabs for the University Hospital Dresden. "This is the most complex partial step within the coronate procedure," explains Professor Dr. Alexander Dalpke, Director of the Institute of Virology of the Medical Faculty at Dresden University of Technology. "We are well equipped for the usual diagnostics of the University Hospital. We are not equipped for the sample quantities that will now be tested for Sars-CoV-2. The support of the DKMS Life Science Lab will enable us to increase the number of coronate tests from the current 300 to up to 600 additional tests per day". Up to now, RNA isolation has been carried out in the laboratory of the Technical University of Dresden with automated systems that process up to 16 samples per hour - quite sufficient for normal requirements, which before the corona crisis were up to 100 samples per day. In recent weeks, however, the demand has risen rapidly due to the tests for the new corona virus, and the trend is still rising.

It took only four days from the idea of cooperation to implementation. In addition to the highly motivated staff of the DKMS laboratory, this is also due in particular to the dedication of the employees of PerkinElmer chemagen Technologie GmbH. Despite the special current situation, they delivered reagents immediately and supported all necessary adjustments to the machines. After successful validation, the first real samples were isolated and tested at the end of last week.

Joining forces to track down the virus

The procedure for detecting SARS-CoV-2 will continue to begin in the outpatient department of the University Hospital: Patients with a well-founded suspicion of corona are given a throat swab. In the event of an infection, this smear contains the genetic material (genome) of the virus. In order to trace the genome, the genetic material, the ribonucleic acid (RNA), must first be isolated. This step is time-consuming, as all potentially interfering substances have to be removed by washing with various solutions until finally the pure RNA remains.

In the future, this isolation will take place mainly in the DKMS laboratory. The necessary high-tech equipment is already available there, as it is used for the isolation of DNA for the typing of tissue characteristics of stem cell donors. "We have technological equipment here that enables us to easily isolate the RNA or DNA from 6,000 samples per day," says Dr. Vinzenz Lange, Chief Technology Officer of the DKMS Life Science Lab.

"Now we are using part of our existing capacities to support the fight against the corona virus. The availability of sufficient test capacities is crucial, because the sooner those affected can be sure that they are infected, the sooner and more consistently they will comply with the quarantine and thus avoid infecting other people".

The further steps for the actual detection of the virus in the RNA then take place again in the laboratory of the Technical University of Dresden: The highly sensitive molecular test has the complicated name "quantitative polymerase chain reaction", abbreviated qPCR. In this process, the little genetic material that has been washed out of the samples beforehand is amplified. With the help of fluorescent substances, the laboratory staff can determine whether the gene sequences of the virus are present or not.

The DKMS Life Science Lab is a subsidiary of the DKMS, the world's largest stem cell donor center, which is committed to the survival and healing chances of blood cancer patients all over the world. Further information about the DKMS Life Science Lab can be found at

Corona tests - for whom, when and where?

A corona test is only carried out in Germany - according to the specifications of the Robert Koch Institute - if there is a justified risk. A medical indication must be available for this. In case of suspicion, please always contact your family doctor or company doctor first! The responsible health authorities or the on-call service of the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung (116 117) can also be reached for an initial consultation by telephone.

If a corona test was found to be necessary at the initial consultation, patients in Dresden can contact the outpatient clinic for infections at the University Hospital: