Oxford overseas research facility expands to include diagnostics and genetics testing centre

The Oxford-Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research, known as OSCAR, has marked another significant milestone with the launch of OSCAR-Prenetics Innovation and Technology Centre for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics (the OSCAR-Prenetics ITC).

The facility is the result of a landmark multi-million-pound collaboration between the University of Oxford, OSCAR and Prenetics Limited, a global leader in the field of diagnostics and genetic testing.

Together, they intend to develop affordable, decentralized and point-of-care tests for infectious diseases threatening global health, including Covid-19.

OSCAR opened in 2018 as the University’s first overseas centre for physical science and engineering research. Its research programmes are led by University of Oxford academics, and range from health informatics, tissue engineering and biomedical imaging techniques to environmental remediation, advanced materials and electronic devices.

In early 2020 OSCAR played a leading role in the development of OxLAMP, a novel rapid testing technology for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), as part of a team led by Professor Zhanfeng Cui FREng and Professor Wei Huang from Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science. The test is now in use at Heathrow and other major UK and international airports; Oxsed, the company spun out to support production of the OxLAMP tests, was quickly acquired by Prenetics.

The new OSCAR-Prenetics ITC is a direct result of this successful acquisition and commercialization, and will bring together leading researchers in bio-sensing, clinical virology, microbiology and medical devices.

Due to travel restrictions caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the OSCAR-Prenetics ITC facility was launched with a virtual ceremony attended by Her Majesty’s Ambassador to China, Dame Caroline Wilson DCMG, and from the University of Oxford: Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Grant, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research, and Professor Sam Howison, Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division. Other attendees included Amanda Solloway, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation, and Professor Christopher Smith, UK Research and Innovation International Champion.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, said: ‘OSCAR-Prenetics ITC fits firmly into Oxford’s tradition of international partnerships and collaboration with industry. We see the results in the development of the OxLAMP rapid test for COVID-19 which began as a joint effort between the Oxford team and OSCAR. OSCAR will build on this success with the development of ITCs, Innovation Technology Centres, to create new channels for innovations and transferable technologies.’

Ambassador Dame Caroline Wilson DCMG, said: ‘The collaborative partnership between Oxford and OSCAR is not only beneficial to both parties concerned, but also to the whole world…I can reassure you that things are going from strength to strength at this wonderful centre. I’m sure the centre we’re marking today will also be a great success.’

Commenting on how UK-China cooperation has positively contributed to international innovation, Professor Christopher Smith of UK Research and Innovation International, said: ‘The development of the lateral flow COVID-19 tests, which are now in widespread use, is a key example of the success that comes from UK-China cooperation and highlights the need for long term sustainable partnerships, because when we are able to invest for the long term, we generate significant outcomes for the benefit of both sides.’

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