Lab-on-a-chip startup gets Covid-19 test boost

Lab-on-a-chip startup gets Covid-19 test boost

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

A UK startup that has developed a lab-on-a-chip system for DNA analysis has seen a boost from the UK government in a deal for Covid-19 test systems.

NudgeDNA was founded by Prof Chris Toumazou (above), who also founded low power wireless medical sensor company Toumaz Technologies in 2000 and DNA Electronics in 2001, with the technology coming to market back in 2012: REAL TIME DNA ANALYSIS COMES TO THE HIGH STREET

This is one of two startups with high profile contracts, but taking the same approach as the ventilator challenge (VENTILATOR CHALLENGE FINISHES) the UK government is also looking to purchase other Covid-19 test systems.

The ‘NudgeBx’ analyser from NudgeDNA uses a lab-on-chip design to detect Covid-19 infections within 90 minutes as well as other flu infections. The UK government said it would roll out 5000 test machines from September for hospitals. These can handle 15 tests a day, and will provide 5.8 million tests in the coming months.

Back in April the company said it had a contract for 10,000 cartridges from the Department of Health and Social Care to roll out to clinical sites for testing. These are currently at eight London hospitals, and the company last week received medical approval following the trials. However data on large scale effectiveness is not yet public. 

Another UK startup has also been contracted to supply tests from next week. 450,000 90-minute LamPORE swab tests will also be available across adult care setting and laboratories, supplied by Oxford Nanopore. These use a traditional reagent-based approach for testing but use a UV light and sensor for analysis. The desktop GridION machine can process up to 15,000 tests a day, while the palm-sized MinION can process up to 2,000 tests a day for deployment in ‘pop-up’ lab.

“We’re using the most innovative technologies available to tackle coronavirus. Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will provide on-the-spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“The fact these tests can detect flu as well as COVID-19 will be hugely beneficial as we head into winter, so patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others.”

“The DnaNudge team worked with incredible speed and skill during the peak of the pandemic to deliver this highly accurate, rapid COVID-19 test, which requires absolutely no laboratory or pipettes and can be deployed anywhere with a direct sample-to-result in around just over an hour,” said Toumazou, who is Regius Professor and founder of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London.

“With the ability to test not only for COVID-19 but also FluA, FluB and RSV on the same single COVID-19 Nudge cartridge, our multiplex test offers a vital solution to protect the NHS as we head into the flu season,” he said.

“Ever since we founded Oxford Nanopore, our mission has been to create disruptive, high performance technology that has a profound, positive impact on society,” said Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore. “LamPORE has the potential to deliver a highly effective and, crucially, accessible global testing solution, not only for COVID-19 but for a range of other pathogens.”

However, like the ventilator challenge programme at the start of the pandemic, the government says it is also signing contracts with more companies to produce machines for DNA coronavirus testing. There are several other Covid-19 test systems that can provide onsite results in 45 minutes, such as the system from Bosch which received approval back in April: BOSCH AIMS TO CUT TEST TIME TO 45 MINUTES.

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