The inventor of a ground-breaking COVID-19 test described his “eureka moment” when he realized he could adapt existing tech to create a rapid virus test.
Professor Chris Toumazou is the co-founder of DnaNudge, which produces App technology that uses DNA and lifestyle data to guide users towards healthier food choices, thanks to a patented analyzer called a NudgeBox.
In March 2020 he and his fellow director Dr. Mohammadreza Sohbati realized that this innovation could be adapted to screen for COVID-19 without the need to send samples to a lab, producing highly accurate results in just over an hour – reducing the typical 1-2 day wait for lab-based results. The company is now in talks with the Department of Health and Social Care regarding widespread UK roll-out of the test following approval for clinical use by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA).
Chris said: “We had considered that at some point in its lifetime the technology could prove useful as a virus tester, so in March of this year when COVID-19 became an issue we put this to the test.
“We found the tech lent itself exceptionally well to the task. You take a nasal swab and put it into a disposable cartridge which goes straight into a portable shoebox-sized analyzer – as simple as putting a coffee pod in a machine. It is programmed to provide a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to detect COVID-19.
“Its application for point-of-care testing is key and what distinguishes us over other lab-based tests. Without the need for sending to a lab there is less opportunity for the virus to be exposed and precious time can be saved when quick decisions need to be made for patients or indeed frontline staff who need a quick result.”
Oxford-based patent attorney Robert Lind from Marks & Clerk has advised a number of exciting start-ups in the areas of bioelectronics and DNA analysis. He has provided IP advice to Chris Toumazou for almost 20 years and described this latest innovation as ground-breaking.
Robert said: “Our firm’s history with Chris goes back a long time with various projects in the areas of health tech and med tech, with one of the most recent being DnaNudge.
“As these latest developments illustrate, the realization that this swab-to-cartridge analysis – originally created with a health and lifestyle application for consumers – could be used for virus testing is a real game-changer.
“We reviewed the existing patent rights to ensure that they are robust and relevant to this new application. Genetics can be a crowded space and strong IP has been absolutely crucial in attracting investors and allowing the project to gather pace quickly at this important time.
“We are very excited by the potential of this innovation which could truly be life-changing for many.”