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USW rapid point-of-care Covid-19 test a step closer to being available

A rapid point-of-care Covid-19 test developed by scientists at the University of South Wales (USW) is a step closer to being available for use as it moves into official evaluation and validation following months of development.

Scientists at USW and their partners have been awarded funding from the Welsh Government’s innovation department to validate the test.

In short:

  • The grant of £115,341 from Welsh Government’s Covid Response, Research, Development and Innovation Solutions fund will enable the University to validate the test device and kits, in collaboration with manufacturing partners, Public Health Wales and NHS Wales.
  • Since the start of the pandemic the team has been developing the Covid-19 test at the labs within the University’s Glyntaff Campus in Pontypridd, to be able to quickly detect whether people are actively infected with the underlying SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • The test has been trialled with healthcare workers from the Cwm Taff Morgannwg University Health Board. USW scientists then used these results to refine the accuracy and performance of the underlying molecular diagnostic technology.
  • The research to date shows that the test performs well compared to the official Public Health Wales testing regime.
  • The team have formed strong links with industry and the health service to develop the test kits and the reader device.
  • The Welsh Government grant will enable the pre-production prototypes of both the electronic device and the molecular assay element of the test to be evaluated and validated for regulatory approval. This could lead to the test being available for use in early 2021.

Dr Jeroen Nieuwland, one of the lead scientists on the project, said: “It has been an incredibly busy few months as we honed the underlying molecular technology of the test to be confident that we can accurately detect Covid-19. We also now have a pre-production prototype of the electronic reader device that will process the test results in 20 to 30 minutes and a unique saliva/nasal probe, which works well for non-invasive swabbing and means that patients can take their own virus swabs. This then goes straight into the assay and then into the machine. This obviously cuts the risk of any further spread of Covid-19 and makes the test truly point-of-care.

“Our main aim has always been to produce a test that is quick, accurate and most importantly cost effective, so that it could be made widely available, particularly if there is a second wave or increasing incidents of localised lockdowns. We still have a bit of a way to go for regulatory approval but we are confident that we are producing a high-quality, low-cost test.”

Dr Emma Hayhurst, who is also a lead scientist on the project, said: “The beauty of this test is that it is quick and portable. It doesn’t need to be processed in a lab and so when businesses, organisations or industries need to, for example, quickly test their workforce, the results can be available in less than 30 minutes, rather than 24 hours or more. There are so many possibilities for how this test can be used, for example, in care homes, hospitals, airports, dental labs and GP practices – even cruise liners.

“Initially we turned around the concept, which was based on a test we had developing over the last few years to detect Urinary Tract Infections, to reality in just a couple of weeks. The next step is for us to evaluate the pre-production prototypes, which this latest funding will now enable us to do, before it can get regulatory approval.”

For more information on the work, visit the USW website.