In the spring of 2020, biohacker Will Canine launched a Kickstarter campaign to create robots that offer an automated alternative to manual pipetting. First prototyped in a community lab, these low-cost OT-2 robots from Opentrons now test millions for coronavirus around the world.

The federal government and corporations such as LabCorp had failed to scale up COVID-19 testing, which often involved a tedious liquid transfer process called pipetting. Canine and his fellow biohackers developed an automated robot platform to speed things along. The platforms have since been shipped to more than 40 countries with dramatic results: In New York City, for example, the turnaround time for test results went down to 12 hours from two weeks, helping to quickly isolate infectious people and reduce the virus’ reach.

Without the robots, the pandemic probably would have killed thousands more in its early days. The platforms are now detecting and tracking new coronavirus variants and helping test for dozens of other infections, including HIV and the flu. Few people have even heard of Opentrons. But the company — valued a year ago at $90 million — is now worth $1.8 billion.

Read the article in its entirety at Los Angeles Times.

Featured Image: The Opentrons OT-2. Photo: Opentrons