Coronavirus tests developed at Culham Science Centre

Winnie Wu, Chief Operating Officer, Genefirst
Sense Biodetection Veros COVID-19 test

Two life science organisations based at Culham Science Centre, Oxfordshire, have developed tests that could be critical in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sense Biodetection has announced an accelerated programme to launch a simple disposable test that uses a nasal swab to give a result in under ten minutes. The test is easy to use in any setting and is fully self-contained, overcoming contamination and logistical problems that can occur with machine based testing.

Harry Lamble, Chief Executive Officer at Sense, commented:

“Our Veros COVID-19 test product can allow infected patients to be isolated sooner whilst providing reassurance to uninfected individuals including healthcare workers that they can return to work without infecting others. Due to its flexibility, speed and accuracy, the test can be deployed for rapid patient triage within hospitals as well as primary care practices, pharmacies and community centres and even distributed for use by individuals in isolation who suspect they may have COVID-19.”

Sense is partnering closely with Phillips-Medisize, a global leader in healthcare delivery, to scale-up production of its test in order to meet the growing demand for rapid diagnostics. It is anticipated the tests will be available within months.

A second company at Culham Science Centre, GeneFirst, has developed a COVID-19 test, which has already been evaluated by Public Health England (PHE). The real-time PCR test provides results in 90 minutes by using molecular diagnostic equipment in hospitals and research labs.

Winnie Wu, Chief Operating Officer, GeneFirst, said: “

We are scaling up our production so that we can meet the demand for hospitals in the local area, and are working diligently with our suppliers along with achieving CE-IVD status on our product as quickly as possible.”

GeneFirst initially provided free tests to China when the global threat of COVID-19 was first realised and is already working with the French authorities and distributors in Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The UK government is due to publish a list of approved COVID-19 test providers so that companies such as GeneFirst can help support NHS Trusts at a local level.

Other organisations at Culham Science Centre contributing to local NHS Trusts include Reaction Engines and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). Volunteer staff are involved in the production of protective face visors using 3D printers, which are being donated to NHS workers.

Reaction Engines is in the fortunate position of being able to offer support as it uses additive manufacturing methods in various components for SABRE and has in house clean-room production facilities.

Using six 3D printers, a team of volunteers will be printing two important components of the face shield; the headband and the bottom reinforcement. The components will be packaged and shipped to a local hub where they will be assembled into full protective face shields and distributed directly to frontline healthcare workers, coordinated by 3DCROWD UK.

Dawn Russell, Commercial Property Manager at Culham Science Centre, said:

“In these extraordinary times, we are extremely proud to be providing a safe environment to support the inspiring and innovative work of Sense Biodetection and GeneFirst along with on-site volunteers who are repurposing their engineering skills to help the NHS.”

Culham Science Centre is owned by UKAEA and is home to over 40 science and engineering businesses, collectively employing over 2,500 people. All but essential operations have been suspended on site until further notice.