Researchers at the Department of Engineering Science and at the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) developed a test very early on in the COVID-19 pandemic to detect in under 30 minutes whether a person is infected with the virus and is still infectious. *Image credit: Jude Palmer/Royal Academy of Engineering*
A team led by Professor Zhanfeng Cui, FREng at Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Professor Wei Huang, in Engineering Science developed the Oxford rapid viral RNA test, which does not require the use of specialist equipment and laboratories and was designed as a point of care test and home test. The test is based on the third generation of Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (OxLAMP®) and is capable of identifying the presence of COVID-19 with 96% sensitivity (correctly identifying those with the disease) and 99.9% specificity (correctly identifying those without the disease). This work was partially funded by an ESPRC IAA, as well as the COVID-19 Research Response Fund from the University of Oxford. The Oxford team was recognised with a Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Special Award.
The test was developed rapidly, with the social venture spinout, Oxsed Limited, being founded in June 2020 to produce the diagnostic test at scale. The test got a CE mark in Jul 2020 and was deployed in Sept 2020. The rapid test is ideal for settings such as airports, social and sport events, and for use in community care, and started being rolled out at Heathrow Airport as a pre-departure rapid test in Oct 2020. The tests are used in major UK airports to test departure passengers and are also used for the government’s test to release scheme for arrival passengers.
Following the acquisition of Oxsed by Prenetics Limited (a global leader in diagnostics and genetic testing), Prenetics signed multimillion dollar collaboration agreements with Oxford University and OSCAR in April 2021, to further develop the OxLAMP® technology for rapid, molecular testing for infectious diseases and to establish the Prenetics Innovation Technology Centre for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics. The latter was opened by Her Majesty’s Ambassador to China, Dame Caroline Wilson, on 21 June 2021.
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