Graphic illustration showing multiple blue coronavirus against a red background.
A new collaboration between Luas Diagnostics and the University of Birmingham will develop a saliva-based test for COVID-19

A saliva-based test for COVID-19 providing results locally in minutes is being developed as a result of a new collaboration between Luas Diagnostics and the University of Birmingham.

Luas Diagnostics of Guildford, Surrey, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Birmingham to collaborate on the development of a rapid, Point-of-Care test for Covid-19 antigen. This will enable Covid-19 testing to be performed in locations such as remote testing centres, care homes, airports and workplaces, in addition to more conventional clinical settings. The goal is to expedite contact tracing and patient isolation, thus helping to reduce the spread of infection and contain further outbreaks.

Brendan Farrell, CEO of Luas Diagnostics, commented: “Currently, most testing for Covid-19 is conducted in centralised laboratories with relatively lengthy times from sample acquisition to result. This both delays and increases the difficulty of tracing the contacts of those who test positive, allowing further proliferation of infection. Our goal is to develop a true, simple to use, near-patient test yielding results in minutes.”

Employing Luas Diagnostics expertise in electrochemistry, the Covid-19 test will run on a small, low-cost, portable device, providing results in minutes. The eHealth enabled device, similar to a glucose meter,  will not only provide rapid results at the site where the test is performed, allowing immediate patient management, but will use Bluetooth to transmit the results directly to a Smartphone App and a secure cloud-based server  which can then be accessed by health care professionals.  

The test will use a saliva sample, as recent studies have shown that the use of oral fluid samples has significant advantages over a nasopharyngeal swab. The sensitivity of saliva samples is  better than that of swabs, non-invasive and simple to collect , making it well suited to testing at remote sites.

The lead investigator at the University of Birmingham, Professor Tim Dafforn stated: “I am looking forward to working with Luas Diagnostics on the challenge of developing a rapid antigen test for Covid-19 which can be used with minimal training at remote sites. This rapid testing capability would enable better understanding of the spread of the coronavirus, helping all of us as we learn to live within the new normal.”  

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Notes to editors

About Luas Diagnostics

Luas Diagnostics is a UK registered private company founded in 2020.

Using enzymes, Luas Diagnostics has developed a new class of sensors that generate electric current upon encountering their molecular target, allowing the development of biomarker assays that are an order of magnitude faster, more versatile, and cheaper to build than current systems in the market.

Because Luas Diagnostics’ diagnostic tests do not require preparation, washing steps, or complex reading mechanisms, the tests can be miniaturised and coupled to a smartphone via Bluetooth for easy readout and uploading of data to repositories in the cloud.

About University of Birmingham Department of Biotechnology

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

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