Researchers working on flow device to provide rapid point-of-care diagnosis of Covid-19

Service Engineering

Co-founder and CEO of Iceni Diagnostics, Professor Rob Field, is collaborating with his team of biotech researchers at Manchester University on a new testing device they hope frontline NHS staff will use to test themselves at home for COVID-19 symptoms before venturing out to work. The new test is also be designed with communities in mind so staff and visitors at the likes of hospitals, care homes or workplaces can be quickly tested. The diagnostic technique uses an artificial glycan receptor to capture a virus and detect pathogens such as Norovirus and different strains of influenza in under 20 minutes. Lateral flow gives a simple yes or no answer, so no training is required, and the handheld device does not need refrigeration. The team hope to have it ready and officially validated by the Autumn.

Professor Field said: “Our existing prototype product for influenza can detect the virus in less than 20 minutes and could be adapted to identify other pathogens such as coronavirus. Respiratory viruses invade the body through cells in the airways and lungs. These cells are covered in a coat of sugar chains, known as glycans, which are used for normal function of human tissues. Viruses can utilise these glycans as part of the infection process.”

“Our existing prototype product for influenza can detect the virus in less than 20 minutes and could be adapted to identify other pathogens such as coronavirus“

“Vaccine development, validation, safety-testing, manufacture, regulatory approval and deployment is a time-consuming process. A low-cost, easy to use screening test that can be performed at the point-of-care would be an ideal way to limit initial disease transmission in the community and at points of entry to hospitals, or at national borders, for instance. Current COVID-19 tests are largely based on PCR [polymerase chain reaction] that requires a laboratory setting for analysis and relies on prior knowledge of the viral genetic code. This code can change as the virus evolves, potentially limiting the effectiveness of the test. The Iceni Diagnostics approach uses glycan recognition, which is unaffected by seasonal variation in the genetic code and can be offered as a handheld home or field-based test. The current Iceni Diagnostics products detect a single virus. However, the next generation of diagnostics will enable the detection and discrimination of a series of pathogens that give rise to similar symptoms. This would enable, for example, a distinction between flu and COVID-19 in a single sample which increases the versatility and robustness of the diagnosis. Additionally, the way the virus interacts with its glycan receptor makes it seasonally consistent, so, even if the virus genetic code mutates, it will still be detected – meaning the Iceni Diagnostics’ test should remain effective in the longer term.”

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