London: Two new tests, both able to detect the novel coronavirus in just 90 minutes, will be rolled out to hospitals, care homes and laboratories across the UK to increase testing capacity and distinguish between COVID-19 and winter flu in the coming months, the British government said today.
One of the tests, the 90-minute LamPORE swab tests, will be supplied by Oxford Nanopore, an Oxford University spin-off co-founded by Indian-origin CEO Gordon Sanghera, who believes it also offers an “accessible global testing solution”.
“We are honoured to be playing a part in fighting COVID-19 in the UK, and preparing the country for the winter virus season. Ever since we founded Oxford Nanopore, our mission has been to create disruptive, high performance technology that has a profound, positive impact on society,” Mr Sanghera said.
Oxford Nanopore will be making 450,000 90-minute LamPORE swab tests available across adult care settings and labs in Britain from next week. These tests will be able to process swab and saliva samples to detect the presence of COVID-19 in 60 to 90 minutes.
“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. We are delighted to be working with the UK government to support and empower our communities to effectively manage testing at a national and localised level,” added Mr Sanghera.
The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the new test has the same sensitivity as the widely used PCR swab test, but can be used to process swabs in labs, as well as on-location through “pop up” labs.
The desktop GridION machine can process up to 15,000 tests a day, or the palm-sized MinION can process up to 2,000 tests a day for deployment in a near-community “pop-up” lab.
The other new rapid test, which uses DNA to detect viruses, will be rolled out across NHS hospitals from September, with 5,000 DNA machines supplied by DnaNudge to provide 5.8 million tests in the coming months.
The DNA “Nudgebox” machines will be rolled out across NHS hospitals in the UK to analyse DNA in nose swabs, providing a positive or negative result for COVID-19 in 90 minutes, at the point of care. The machines will process up to 15 tests on the spot each day without the need for a laboratory.
“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 Regius Professor Chris Toumazou FRS, CEO and co-founder of DnaNudge and founder of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London.
Both tests will be able to detect both COVID-19 and other winter viruses, such as flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The DHSC said the tests do not require a trained health professional to operate them, meaning they can be rolled out in more non-clinical settings.
“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,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“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,” he said.
Details of positive test results will be shared with NHS Test and Trace, tracking the spread of coronavirus as the UK tries to emerge from lockdown, so that close contacts can self-isolate in line with government guidance.
The Department of Health says both tests will help to “further strengthen” the coronavirus response later this year in the winter months, arming both clinicians and NHS Test and Trace with the ability to distinguish between COVID-19 cases, which have specific self-isolation requirements, and other winter viruses.