COVID-19 Innovation: McMaster Molecular Medium (M3) – high volume testing that helps preserve the supply chain

The only way to keep up with the COVID-19 virus is to test faster than ever before. Global shortages of nasal swabs and other virus testing supplies, including transport media that preserve the integrity of collected samples, challenge these efforts.

Stepping up to solve this problem, MHL Research Director Dr. David Bulir created McMaster Molecular Medium (M3) in April 2020. M3 is a temperature-stable storage medium that can maintain coronavirus specimens for up to 14 days, significantly longer than any other transport media. M3 inactivates – kills – the virus so it cannot replicate and potentially infect a lab technician. The genetic material is kept stabilized and ready for testing.

A major innovation of M3 is the ability to pool tests – four samples can be tested together – significantly reducing costs and time to results. One thousand testing runs now handle four thousand individual tests with this high-throughput pooling system. Researchers are working to allow more than four samples to be pooled together. In addition to enabling high-volume testing, M3 also addresses the problem of supply chain shortages, as all components of the medium have stable supply chains.

M3 will be deployed as part of McMaster HealthLabs COVID-19 research testing initiatives to support getting Canadians back to work as quickly as possible.