Innovative new 20-minute COVID-19 test begins large-scale testing

A new, highly accurate COVID-19 test, Virus Hunter 6 (VH6), developed by three leading universities – Lancaster University, Brunel University London and the University of Surrey – in collaboration with commercial partner Vidiia Ltd, and which delivers results in under 20 minutes, is being trialled across the University of Surrey.

Dr Muhammad Munir, Molecular Virologist at Lancaster University, said: “Backed by an innovative technology, strong institutional collaboration and a vibrant industrial partner, the testing of a smart diagnostic platform on the University of Surrey campus is a step closer to offering a fast and reliable diagnostic test for early detection of COVID-19 infections in multiple communities.”

The test has been shown to be 99 per cent accurate in lab trials and has been developed for use as a mass point-of-care product in large settings such as universities, airports, and care homes.

The device can test up to six samples simultaneously and uses LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification – which is more rapid and easier to perform than PCR) technology, a single-tube technique that amplifies the nucleic acid of the virus using nasal and oral swab samples. A unique buffer used in the device reduces processing time, makes handling samples much safer and removes the need to send samples to a laboratory. This state-of-the-art device uses a mixture of swab samples, image processors and AI, all shared with a mobile app, which reduces testing times and possible errors with result interpretation.

As part of its ongoing COVID-19 testing programme the University of Surrey will require 1,000 samples from its staff and students, who have decided to remain on campus, as well as those returning to essential teaching programmes, to trial the new technology.

Data gathered from testing will help validate the test for mass use. It is hoped that the innovative device, which has recently received official registration with The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and has a CE marking, will be further tested in a hospital setting.

Prof Roberto La Ragione, Professor of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology at the University of Surrey, said: “Developing a highly accurate COVID-19 test that delivers rapid results has been a priority since the beginning of this pandemic. Initial results from our testing have been very encouraging; the next stage of its development is to begin testing on a large scale. I am delighted that this will take place on our campus and that our staff and students will be a part of this vital step in combatting the impact of COVID-19.”

David Rimer, CEO of Vidiia, said: “Testing on this scale is a welcome opportunity for Vidiia to further evaluate the VH6 testing product, software and algorithm that the team and universities have worked so hard on over the past nine months. We are now at an exciting stage of our journey to provide point-of-care LAMP testing far and wide to control the spread of COVID-19, and I would like to thank the staff and students at the University of Surrey for contributing to testing such a critical product.”

Prof Wamadeva Balachandran, Research Professor at Brunel University London and lead academic on the project, said: “We are excited to be part of the University of Surrey trials of Virus Hunter 6. These will further validate trials completed at Surrey and Lancaster universities using NHS clinical samples.”

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