LSTM researchers work on new diagnostics for COVID-19

News article 12 Mar 2020

Researchers at LSTM are working to develop and evaluate new diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that can be carried out in close to community settings and suitable for implementation in low-middle income countries.

The team from LSTM, who are all members of NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, are working closely with industry contacts and will develop two point of care diagnostic assays that are suitable for use at A&E and outpatient health services.

This week there was the scientific kick-off of a development programme with Mologic, a developer of rapid diagnostic tests. These tests would give results in just 10 minutes and easy to use at the point of need; in homes; the community and in low-resource settings.  

LSTM’s Dr Emily Adams explains: “The rapidly developing outbreak of COVID-19 is rightly generating considerable international concern. In line with the WHO strategy to reduce transmission, near-patient diagnostic capacity is required for effective triage of symptomatic patients and infection control."

"Our aim is to use the considerable experience within LSTM, Mologic and DiaTropix - the Senegalese manufacturing site - to rapidly develop, evaluate and manufacture diagnostic tests."

"Currently we intend to evaluate clinical samples collected in the UK and will move with the emerging epidemiology to field sites internationally. We are keen to implement testing as soon as possible in countries that do not have enough laboratory infrastructure to detect disease and are working closely with partners in Africa, including Nigeria, Uganda and Malawi."

"The second test is being developed with industrial partners Genedrive, with whom we have submitted grant applications based upon prototype tests designed at LSTM and transferred to Genedrive’s portable PCR device. This test may help diagnose individuals outside of central referral systems, as even in Europe we cannot keep up with the huge demand for diagnosis tests."

LSTM’s role within the Mologic project was brokered by CEIDR Innovations, a partnership between LSTM and the University of Liverpool, which develops relationships between industry and academia.

CEIDR Innovations’ Dr Lisa Baldwin said: “Having established links between researchers and industry means that we are all more adaptable to respond to urgent, developing threats to public health across the globe, with COVID-19 being a very clear example. Putting expertise, experience and technological advancements together, means that we can rapidly respond to emerging threats to public health.”