Rapid virus testing system conceived at Imperial lands new role in entertainment


a make-up artist at work wearing a face mask

A new partnership will bring rapid respiratory virus testing to film sets and TV studios across the country.

Respiratory infections are a challenge in the film and TV industry, with any hint of flu or COVID-19 among cast and crew liable to bring costly productions to a standstill. Rapid and reliable viral identification on set can make all the difference, which is why specialist testing services company Katalyst Laboratories has signed a partnership agreement to deploy the Dragonfly system developed by Imperial startup ProtonDx.

Our Dragonfly system is a potential game-changer, providing rapid and accurate results, irrespective of location. Bob Enck ProtonDx

“Katalyst is leading the evolution of in-field diagnostic testing for the film and TV production industries, providing ready access to novel diagnostic solutions to support operational continuity for these people-centric businesses,” said Bob Enck, Chairman and President of ProtonDx.

“So, I’m pleased to announce our strategic partnership with Katalyst for the distribution of our Dragonfly diagnostic system, which is a potential game-changer in the diagnostics industry, providing rapid and accurate results, irrespective of location.”

ProtonDx’s approach is based on an innovative sample collection and analysis technique developed by Dr Jesus Rodriguez Manzano, from the Department of Infectious Disease, and Professor Pantelis Georgiou and Dr Nicholas Moser, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. The method provides a very pure and amplified DNA/RNA sample, without the need for laboratory processing. This means that testing can be done on-the-spot, even in challenging conditions.

Dragonfly test kit
The Dragonfly 5-in-1 Respiratory Test Panel can distinguish between different human virus types

The company’s Dragonfly 5-in-1 Respiratory Test Panel can detect the low viral loads present during the early stages of a respiratory infection in humans, and distinguish rapidly between virus types, indicating whether it has detected influenza A, influenza B, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus or the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19. The Dragonfly system is easily portable, providing results in half an hour that are as reliable as a PCR test.

Dragonfly recently proved its worth supporting Team GB’s athletes at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, and Team Scotland’s participants at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Ready for the close-up

Under the terms of the agreement, ProtonDx has granted Katalyst exclusive rights to the distribution of the Dragonfly multi-pathogen detection system in a variety of Katalyst’s client segments, notably in film and TV production.

Dragonfly offers the diagnostics community a unique and cost-effective testing solution. Andrew Wheeler Katalyst Laboratories

“We are excited to be working with the expert team at ProtonDx and distributing this stand-out solution that can deliver high-quality molecular diagnostic testing anywhere,” said Andrew Wheeler, co-founder and CEO of Katalyst Laboratories.

“Dragonfly offers the diagnostics community a unique and cost-effective testing solution that can be readily adapted to support the rapidly evolving need for accurate pathogen detection, something that I believe can add value not only within the film & TV market, but across all point-of-care channels.”

ProtonDx was founded in 2020, commercialising several years of multi-disciplinary research involving engineering, medicine and molecular biology in order to provide rapid, accurate diagnostics at the point of need. This work accelerated during the pandemic with the support of the Imperial College 3M COVID-19 Research Award and the Community Jameel fund.

In March 2021 the company moved into the Imperial Incubator at White City, building on past support from the College’s enterprise ecosystem, including the Techcelerate and MedTech SuperConnector (MTSC) programmes, the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service, and the Friends of Imperial College.

Main picture: Getty Images


Ian Mundell

Ian Mundell


White-City-Campus, Viruses, Influenza, Infectious-diseases, Engineering-EEE, Enterprise, Coronavirus
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