The Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2021 MacRobert Award has been awarded to DnaNudge, the developer of consumer genetics technology repurposed to test for COVID-19.
The CovidNudge rapid test technology was adapted from DnaNudge’s existing consumer DNA testing service, developed to address nutrition and lifestyle-influenced health conditions such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
The London start-up has been honoured for the development of its pioneering consumer genetics technology, which was adapting during the pandemic to deliver a lab-free RT-PCR COVID-19 test to NHS hospitals.
Now in use in care homes and supporting the return of the arts sector, the test can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus from saliva samples on-site in just over an hour.
The Royal Opera House, home of The Royal Ballet, is currently benefiting from DnaNudge’s COVID-19 testing service, which is delivering pool testing on-site to support the Royal Opera House’s 2021/22 programme of live music, dance and theatre events.
The Royal Opera House joins the London Symphony Orchestra, Glyndebourne Festival and other arts and cultural organisations that are using DnaNudge’s RT-PCR test to support the safe re-opening of the UK’s cultural sector.
Based at the Imperial College London Translation and Innovation Hub in White City, DnaNudge was created by biomedical engineer Regius Professor Chris Toumazou and geneticist Dr Maria Karvela. The DnaNudge winning team also includes Dr Caroline Golden, clinical research manager, David West, COO, and Josef Cicinski, UK retail store manager
In a statement, Prof. Chris Toumazou FREng FRS, said: “The past year has been challenging for all, but the determination and commitment of the entire DnaNudge team to get behind our health service and deliver a truly life-saving solution has been incredible.
“We look forward to expanding the capabilities of our transformative genetic testing platform to address other major global health challenges, including in the area of oncology and STDs. This is just the beginning of our technology’s capabilities.”
DnaNudge has created the world’s first service to use consumers’ DNA plus lifestyle factors to ‘nudge’ people towards healthier and more personalised choices while shopping. The DnaNudge Nutrition service analyses and maps users’ genetic profile to key nutrition-related health traits such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol – enabling customers to be guided by their DNA towards healthier eating.
DnaNudge’s Lab-in-Cartridge allows consumers to provide a cheek swab in-store or posted from home. In just over an hour, DnaNudge’s NudgeBox portable analyser maps the user’s genetic profile to key nutrition-related health traits. Using the wrist-worn DnaBand or using the DnaNudge mobile app, people are then able to scan food products sold in UK supermarkets to find out whether the nutritional contents are a good match for their individual biology, effectively shopping with your DNA and lifestyle.
Professor Sir Richard Friend FREng FRS, chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “DnaNudge is an excellent example of how the UK engineering community adapted to be at the forefront of the global efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Its role in supporting the government with its testing capabilities will have gone a long way to helping to understand and contain the virus.
“Looking towards the future, this technology knows no limits, helping consumers to take control of their health and lifestyle and make informed dietary decisions, with positive long-term implications.”
DnaNudge will receive the signature MacRobert Award gold medal and a £50,000 cash prize.