A coronavirus test – which aims to deliver rapid results – has received major funding.
The rapid test, being developed by researchers at Imperial College London, will also be able to detect ultra-low concentrations of the virus, meaning that patients can be diagnosed much earlier in the infection’s life-cycle.
Many of the current point of care lateral flow tests are based on blood analysis for COVID-19 immune responses 10 days or more after symptoms first appear and do not allow early detection of the infection.
If patients can be diagnosed earlier in the infection’s life-cycle by rapid point of care tests, they can be isolated and receive treatment, reducing the spread of the outbreak. This would help address the challenge of identifying asymptomatic carriers.
Professor Molly Stevens, from the Departments of Materials and Bioengineering, is leading the project, which has received more than €600,000 in funding and is being supported by the EU’s European Institute of Innovation and Technology, Imperial’s COVID-19 Response Fund and the Rosetrees Trust.
The researchers aim to complete the development phase of the point-of-care diagnostic device, called QwikZyme, within the next six months. They are working closely with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to carry out clinical testing.
Professor Stevens’ team has extensive expertise in ultrasensitive biosensing and the integration of designer nanoparticles into rapid point of care tests.
Professor Stevens said: “An ultra-sensitive rapid point of care diagnostic test for COVID-19 is urgently needed, as the virus continues to spread.
"Our rapid test design is for point of care use to help us overcome the challenge of detecting asymptomatic carriers, as well as diagnosing patients much earlier and more quickly.
"This would enable patients to be isolated and treated earlier, and help control the spread of outbreaks.”
Professor Stevens and her team received a grant of €600,000 from EIT Health, in addition to support from Imperial’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
EIT Health announced funds of over six million euros in the fight against COVID-19, which will be dedicated to 14 specially selected health innovation projects across Europe. Professor Stevens’ team was the only UK-based group to receive funding from EIT Health in its Rapid Response initiative.
Enterprise Programme Manager Anca Mandruleanu, who worked with Professor Molly Stevens and her team to develop and submit the EIT proposal said: “This EIT call has been particularly competitive; it received many applications from across Europe and had a short deadline.
"I’m pleased to have supported professor Stevens and her team to tap into this grant scheme and receive this award, making this the only successful UK based proposal.”
Imperial’s COVID-19 Response Fund
The Imperial College COVID-19 Response Fund is supported by hundreds of alumni and friends. It will supplement government and existing philanthropy to provide flexible support for vital projects in the university’s unprecedented efforts to tackle COVID-19 such as developing vaccines, improving diagnostics, advancing therapies, strengthening epidemiology and providing essential healthcare in the urgent race to defeat the novel coronavirus.
It is seeded by central funding from Imperial, with the President’s Fund providing initial financial support.
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