Rapid COVID-19 test kit moves closer to market

A COVID-19 test kit that simultaneously detects the presence of the virus in six individuals in under 30 minutes is moving closer to market.

COVID-19 test kit

Brunel University London, together with the Universities of Lancaster and Surrey have teamed up with GB Electronics (UK) Ltd, Inovo Robotics and Unique Secure to develop the inexpensive, rapid, diagnostic test kit and make it widely available.

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In a statement, Prof Wamadeva Balachandran from Brunel University London said: “There remains an urgent need to develop testing for COVID-19 which is quick and inexpensive. This will enable those who test positive to self-isolate as quickly as possible, helping to reduce the spread of the virus.

“I am delighted that GB Electronics, Inovo Robotics and Unique Secure have joined us on this exciting project, their expertise will help accelerate the development of this test on a mass scale to minimise loss of lives.”

The partnership unites industry and academic experts in the fields of electronic and software engineering, diagnostics, virology, robotics and artificial intelligence to fast track the development of a new COVID-19 test kit.

It is envisaged that the portable testing device can be used in areas with large concentrations of people, such as care homes, sizeable employers and airports, to quickly determine if an individual has the virus. The results from the current virus detection tests normally take several hours to process.

The inexpensive, portable testing kit will make testing for COVID-19 more accessible in developing countries where remote communities may lack access to high quality medical facilities.

A Surrey spokesperson told The Engineer that the system does not use lateral flow for detection. Instead it uses colorimetric detection using an inbuilt camera. The images obtained are then processed using an AI algorithm.

Clinical tests in three NHS hospitals will begin shortly to validate the performance of the SARS-CoV-2 test kit.

“Many vulnerable people around the world have had limited or no access to fast Covid-19 virus testing during the pandemic,” said Henry Woods, co-founder of Inovo Robotics. “We see the potential to make a real difference in limiting the spread of the virus through this technology.”