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Rapid Lab-Free PCR COVID-19 Test in Development by DnaNudge and Imperial College

The Lab-in-Cartridge rapid test, based on Professor Toumazou’s DnaNudge consumer DNA testing innovation, has been clinically validated after a successful initial trial on COVID-19 patients and will continue to validate on larger patient groups. The evaluation, which began in recent days, will now involve large-scale clinical testing with a view to extensive national roll-out, as part of the drive to meet the UK government’s testing targets.

Imperial College London’s Regius Professor of Engineering, Chris Toumazou FRS, is working with clinical researchers to test a rapid, lab-free PCR test that detects COVID-19 and delivers results in just over an hour.

The Department of Health and Social Care has procured 10,000 DnaNudge COVID-19 RNA testing cartridges to roll out to clinical sites. The Department of Health’s new COVID-19 Testing Strategy cited the work as among “Encouraging innovators that are producing promising new types of tests”.

Experts at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust are working with the Imperial College London and DnaNudge team to enable the new test to be applied to patients and staff if it continues to prove successful.

A key advantage of DnaNudge’s solution is that the RNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test requires no sample handling and is able to deliver processing outside of a laboratory environment using DnaNudge’s patented and miniaturized “NudgeBox” analyzer, which can be used anywhere. The swab can be placed directly into the cartridge and then straight into the box for analysis.

“Early validation results for our technology in the COVID-19 patient study have been excellent. The DnaNudge test was developed as a lab-free, on-the-spot consumer service that can be delivered at scale, so we clearly believe it offers very significant potential in terms of mass population testing during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Professor Christofer Toumazou, CEO and co-founder of DnaNudge and founder of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London.

“This is one of the most exciting technologies I’ve seen in this area, particularly because it avoids the need for any sample handling. Our early results are very encouraging and now we need to see how the test performs in different clinical settings and understand where it might have the biggest impact on care at this critical time,” said Professor Graham Cooke, NIHR Research Professor of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London, leading the clinical development.

The technology builds on a series of innovations developed by Professor Toumazou and his team at Imperial’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering, originally with other applications in mind. These advances include novel integration between biochemistry microfluidics, electronic circuits and miniaturization based on smartphone technology.

The DnaNudge in-store DNA testing service, which this coronavirus test is based on, was launched to consumers in November 2019.  The service currently focuses on nutrition, analyzing and mapping users’ genetic profile to key nutrition-related health traits.  With the results of a quick, one-time test, customers can use a DnaNudge smartphone App or wrist-worn DnaBand to scan product barcodes in the majority of major UK supermarkets, and discover whether a food product is “red” or “green” for their unique genetic make-up. The test has been converted to detect the RNA of COVID-19.

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