Iceni Diagnostics, developers of a rapid test for coronavirus, is one of the 800 companies to benefit from a £20 million government fund. The fund is to support the development of ambitious technologies that will build UK resilience against long-term impact of the outbreak.

Dr Simone Dedola of Iceni Diagnostics says the £50k grant from Innovate UK will help accelerate development of its test for COVID-19, which can be used for triage.

He comments: “In any infectious disease outbreak, it is important to quickly identify carriers of the disease and this is key to controlling the spread of infection. We are developing a test that will provide a simple yes/no answer to this basic question within 15 minutes and is designed to be used in the community with little training.”

Rapid triage test for coronavirus

It is intended that the test should be used for triage, to enable large numbers of people to be quickly tested on the spot. This would enable those with a positive response to be rapidly identified, quarantined and subjected to further testing, while allowing negative-response individuals to return to their normal work-life activities.

The traditional method of identifying a virus is from its genetic material. The Iceni Diagnostics device uses a different approach; it creates a sugar trap for the virus.

Viruses recognise their host using chains of sugars known as glycans on the surface of the human cell. Iceni Diagnostics exploits this virus-glycan interaction within its novel diagnostics approach.

Iceni Diagnostics has already applied its platform technology to the influenza virus, demonstrating how by modifying the glycans it could be adapted to identify different strains of the disease – human influenza, avian flu, equine flu. These insights have enabled the company to modify its technique for the new strain of coronavirus.

Cost effective to produce

The key advantage of a device based on Iceni Diagnostics’ technology is that it is easy to produce and can be scaled up, using established manufacture and distribution chains. This would allow a low-cost device to be mass-produced to meet the substantial demands for immediate and recurrent coronavirus testing in the weeks and months ahead.

The company has made good progress and will work with clinical partners to enable prototype testing.