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Japan chemical firm Tosoh to make coronavirus reagent to shorten test time

Officials in protective gear screen passengers who have disembarked from the Diamond Princess at Yokohama Port, on Feb. 21, 2020. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Chemical company Tosoh Corp. said Friday it has started to develop a reagent that could detect the new coronavirus in less than 50 minutes, shorter than the six hours required with current test kits.

    While it usually takes about two years to commercialize an agent, Tosoh said it will work with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to speed up the development, while making use of its expertise in developing testing agents for tuberculosis.

    Japan's Cabinet last week approved 10.3 billion yen ($94 million) for emergency measures against the new coronavirus, including promoting the development of test kits that can shorten the waiting time for the results.

    Other companies are also working on new reagents or increasing their production amid the rapid spread of the pneumonia-causing coronavirus originating from China.

    Fujifilm Wako Pure Chemical Corp., a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., said Thursday it has begun to develop a new testing reagent for use in the polymerase chain reaction test, a method that can detect the virus with a high degree of accuracy.

    Meanwhile, Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG and Japanese firm Takara Bio Inc. are ramping up their output of reagents for detecting the coronavirus.

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