Consumer tech converted to rapidly test for Covid-19

A consumer DNA testing device dubbed DnaNudge has been modified to provide a rapid, lab-free PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test that detects COVID-19 and delivers results in just over an hour.

DnaNudge in-store DNA testing service set to testing for Covid-19 (Image: DnaNudge)

The Lab-in-Cartridge rapid tests – based on Imperial College London’s Prof Chris Toumazou’s DnaNudge DNA testing innovation – are said to have been clinically validated after a successful initial trial on COVID-19 patients and are continuing to validate on larger patient groups.


Interview: Professor Chris Toumazou

The evaluation will now involve large-scale clinical testing with a view to extensive national roll-out, as part of the drive to meet the UK government’s testing targets. To this end, the Department of Health and Social Care has procured 10,000 DnaNudge COVID-19 RNA testing cartridges to roll out to clinical sites.

Experts at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust are working with the Imperial College London and DnaNudge team to enable the new test to be applied to patients and staff if it continues to prove successful.

According to Imperial College a key advantage of DnaNudge’s solution is that the RNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test requires no sample handling and is able to deliver processing outside of a laboratory environment – using DnaNudge’s patented and miniaturised NudgeBox analyser.

The technology has the claimed potential to offer a substantial improvement on current lab-based PCR testing times that can take one-to-two days before a patient can receives the results. The swab can be placed directly into the cartridge and then straight into the box for analysis.

In a statement, Prof Toumazou, CEO and co-founder of DnaNudge and founder of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “Early validation results for our technology in the COVID-19 patient study have been excellent. The DnaNudge test was developed as a lab-free, on-the-spot consumer service that can be delivered at scale, so we clearly believe it offers very significant potential in terms of mass population testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The DnaNudge in-store DNA testing service, which this coronavirus test is based on, was launched to consumers in November 2019.  The service currently focuses on nutrition, analysing and mapping users’ genetic profile to key nutrition-related health traits.  With the results of a quick, one-time test, customers can use a DnaNudge smartphone App or wearable DnaBand to scan product barcodes and discover whether a food product is “red” or “green” for their unique genetic make-up. The test, converted to detect the RNA of COVID-19, was developed in collaboration with TTP in Cambridge.