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Portable testing kits for developing countries

A new portable test kit will make testing for COVID-19 more accessible in developing countries.

Researchers at Brunel University London, the University of Surrey and Lancaster University have created a molecular test kit and smartphone app from a project backed by UKRI’s Newton Fund.

Led by Professor Wamadeva Balachandran from Brunel University London, the new kit can tell people if they have COVID-19 in around 30 minutes.

The original project was one of four shortlisted for the UK-Philippines Newton Prize in 2019. It created a diagnostic platform and surveillance software for farms to detect infectious pathogens in poultry.

Read about the UK-Philippines Newton Fund low cost diagnostics for poultry infections.

Recalibrating for COVID-19

Professor Balachandran, the project’s principal investigator, led the team that realised that their ability to test for viral and bacterial pathogens in poultry could be recalibrated to test for COVID-19.

It works by linking a test kit to a smartphone app. Test swabs go into the kit, which then runs a test for COVID-19. It feeds the information into the smartphone app, which will then give you results in around 30 minutes.

It can run up to six different swab tests at the same time.

Moving to mass production

The team has joined forces with GB Electronics (UK), Inovo Robotics and Unique Secure to manufacture two versions of inexpensive, rapid, diagnostic test kits.

The kits 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.

Crucially, because of their inexpensive nature, the kits will make testing for COVID-19 much more accessible in developing countries.

Henry Woods, co-founder of Inovo Robotics, said:

We are very pleased to be involved in this important work with the three universities.

Many vulnerable people around the world have had limited or no access to fast COVID-19 virus testing during the pandemic. We see the potential to make a real difference in limiting the spread of the virus through this technology.

These new partnerships will allow the team to scale up their production and supply test kits all around the world, including developing countries. These have remote communities who may not have easy or immediate access to high-quality medical facilities.

Professor Balachandran said:

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 minimize loss of lives.

Read more about the project’s progress in the Shropshire Star.

Last updated: 23 October 2020

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