Africa Suitcaselab is a project funded by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) and an African-European partnership for development and deployment of rapid SARS-CoV-2 RNA and antigen detection assays by the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH). Both contain a multi-country blinded phase 2 study to evaluate rapid detection systems of SARS-COV-2.


Our main aim is to evaluate 3 different point of need systems (isothermal amplification, peakPCR and rapid antigen test) ) for SARS-COV-2 through a multi-country blinded study and its implementation in low resource settings. Learn more about our projects

The consortium consists of 3 European Partners (coordination and assay development) as well as 7 North and Sub-Saharan partners (diagnostic evaluation). Learn more about who we are


Suitcaselab demonstration
Suitcase lab

Suitcase lab

Glove box for sample inactivation
Glove box for sample inactivation

Glove box for sample inactivation

our main objectives

diagnostic accuracy determination

of the SARS-COV-2 point of need assays.

Cross-border Collaboration

involving 9 countries from Europe, North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Building Capacity

for safe sample handling and inactivation using the glove box.

Suitcaselab Implementation

for rapid detection of SARS-COV-2.

Figure 1: peakPCR desktop (left), portable (middle) and qPCR sample holder (right).
Figure 2: COVID-19 nucleocapsid protein lateral flow assay with our electrochemical readout device.
Figure 3: Suitcase lab.

Once validated, the suitcase lab can be deployed at point of entry, walk-through test centers as well as remote areas for outbreak investigations. The suitcase lab will pave the way for rapid identification of infected cases and enhance prompt management as well as immediate implementation of control measures against the spread of SARS-COV-2.


COVID-19 has emerged as a new viral disease in late 2019 and has rapidly spread and developed into a global pandemic with severe health and economic impact. Although real-time RT-PCR is currently used as the standard method for SARS-COV-2 molecular diagnosis, it requires a well-established laboratory, specifically trained personnel, is time-consuming (2-5 hours) and thus involves high costs altogether. Therefore, the need of other rapid and simple diagnostic approaches maintaining the high performance of RT-PCR is of utmost urgency.

In the past 3 years, Prof. Stark´s at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland (ETH) working group has designed and constructed a completely new PCR instrument (called “peakPCR”) with a proprietary metallic sample holder, built with inexpensive and easily available components and therefore at an extremely competitive price (Figure 1). Thanks to the low reaction volume required by the sample holder, the PCR amplification can be performed faster and generate significant reagents savings.

Dr. Vörös group at ETH is developing an electrochemically enhanced rapid antigen test for COVID-19 (RDT) at a roughly two orders of magnitude improved limit of detection compared to state of the art COVID-19 rapid tests, while retaining all the advantages of a rapid test: Speed, mobility and price efficiency (Figure 2).

The group from Germany, France, and seven African countries are working in the last five years on development and implementation of mobile suitcase lab (figure 3) operating an isothermal amplification assay, termed as recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA) assay and recombinase aided amplification (RAA) assay , is widely regarded as a promising alternative technology to real-time PCR for field use as it provides results faster, amplifies nucleic acid at a constant lower temperature, and is accomplished with less expensive as well as simpler equipment.

The advantages of the suitcase lab are:

  1. The size of the suitcase is 62+49+30 cm, which is easy to carry, transport and ship. A glove box will be used to inactivate the samples to avoid contamination of the environment and infect the technician or the health care worker.
  2. Power source from solar panel with power pack. 
  3. Easy to be implemented in low resource settings. 
  4. Cold chain independence as reagents can be kept at 38-40°C ambient temperature for months without any effect on the assay performance. 
  5. A tight waste container allowing autoclaving or incinerating waste to avoid contamination of the environment.
  6. Rapid time to result around 20 minutes including the extraction procedure.


This project is funded by the EDCTP and the BRCCH. It is a collaboration between partners in Ghana, Senegal, Madagascar, Nigeria, DR Congo, Sudan and Uganda, where the field activities will take place, and partners in Europe involved with development and refinement of the SARS-COV-2 rapid diagnostic test.

The team

  • Dr. Ahmed Abd El Wahed, Lead coordinator, Leipzig University, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Uwe Truyen, Head of data management, Leipzig University, Germany
  • Dr. Anavaj Sakuntabhai, Functional Genetics of Infectious Diseases Unit Institut Pasteur, France
  • Professor Vörös Janos, ETH Zürich, Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Switzerland
  • Professor Wendelin Stark, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
  • Dr. Michael Frimpong, Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR), Ghana
  • Dr. Dia Ndongo, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Senegal
  • Dr Jean-Michel Heraud, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Senegal
  • Dr. Philippe Dussart, Institut Pasteur de Madagascar
  • Professor Olusegun George Ademowo, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Dr. Sheila Makiala, Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale du Zaire (INRB), DR Congo
  • Dr. Kamal Eltom, University of Khartoum, Sudan
  • Dr. Julius Boniface Okuni, College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, Makerere University, Uganda
  • Dr. Michele Gregorini, Post-doc resarcher, ETH Zürich -D-CHAB, Switzerland
  • Dr. Alexander Tanno, Post-doc researcher, ETH Zürich-D-ITET, Schwitzerland


Consortium members

Screenshot of one of the Africa Suitcaselab consortium online meetings showing the involved partners


TIB Molbiol Syntheselabor GmbH


midge medical GmbH


Consortium Partners

University of Khartoum

Visit UK

Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale du Zaire (INRB)

Visit INRB

Functional Genetics of Infectious Diseases Institut Pasteur

Visit IP

Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research Tropical Medicine

Visit KCCR

Institut Pasteur de Dakar

Visit IP Dakar

Institut Pasteur de Madagascar

Visit IP Madagascar

University of Ibadan

Visit UI

ETH Zürich

Visit ETH

Vet.med., Animal Resources, Biosecurity, Makerere University

Visit COVAB Makerere




Dr. Ahmed Abd El Wahed

Dr. Ahmed Abd El Wahed

Akademischer Assistent

Tierhygiene und Tierseuchenbekämpfung
An den Tierkliniken 41-43
04103 Leipzig

Telefon: +49 341 97-38153

 Arianna Ceruti

Arianna Ceruti

Wiss. Mitarbeiterin

Tierhygiene und Tierseuchenbekämpfung
An den Tierkliniken 43
04103 Leipzig