The Centro de Diagnóstico Molecular iMM´s history is intrinsically linked to the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic in Portugal.

At the beginning of March 2020, the imposition of general confinement forced scientists from the Instituto de Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes iMM to stop all scientific activities. Immediately, many researchers wondered how science could be of use in responding to the pandemic.

On March 13th, the iMM Board proposed a challenge to the entire iMM community – to create a team of volunteers to carry out diagnostic tests for COVID-19. The response was very positive, and, in just a few days, iMM assembled an extensive team capable of responding to this challenge. The high scientific knowledge, sense of mission, and enthusiasm of the entire team led, in less than 15 days, iMM to develop a method to diagnose COVID-19 with reagents made in Portugal, thus allowing an increase in testing capacity in Portugal, despite the shortage of reagents worldwide.

Testing capacity grew, and the team of volunteers gradually became professionalized, leading to the emergence of the iMM’s Centro de Diagnóstico Molecular. Sociedade Francisco Manuel dos Santos and Grupo Jerónimo Martins supported the capacity-building model, allowing the scaling up of testing capacity and, conversely, the effective response of the Center.

Of the numerous partnerships established, the agreement with the Ministério do Trabalho, Solidariedade e Segurança Social stands out, having permitted the mass testing of nursing homes employees in the districts of Santarém, Guarda, Castelo Branco, and Lisboa e Vale do Tejo, in partnership with Cruz Vermelha Portuguesa. This project allowed Portugal to have one of the lowest mortality rates in nursing homes at the European level.

Here, at the Centro de Diagnóstico Molecular iMM, our mission is to continue to innovate in molecular diagnostics.