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Cambridge firms underpin game-changing lateral flow test for Covid-19

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Chris Littlewood, Activotec CEO
Chris Littlewood, Activotec CEO

Two Cambridge-based biotechnology companies have been instrumental in the development of a game-changing platform for lateral flow (LF) tests that could be vital in the fight against Covid-19.

Large-scale Covid-19 antibody screenings with high specificity and sensitivity, such as the LF test, could provide public health authorities with reliable data to monitor the impact of regional and national lockdown restrictions and provide evidence of antibody generation after vaccine immunisations.

The platform is underpinned by Activotec, a laboratory equipment supplier based in Comberton, while Excivion is developing novel vaccines from St John’s Innovation Centre.

Excivion and Activotec have formed a forward-thinking collaboration with several Scottish partners to develop the unique technology which has now been submitted for UK patent protection by Dalmuir-bsed Coronex, which was set up in April 2020 to address unmet needs in LF antibody testing. Accurate repeat testing, such as that provided by the new Coronex LF technology, enables monitoring of antibody responses to vaccination over time, and informs the need for repeat immunisation over the coming years.

The proprietary platform technology has been used to develop highly optimised LF tests for SARS-Cov-2 antibodies. The technology also allows the LF tests to be adapted easily and rapidly to detect antibodies to newly-isolated variants when mutations arise.

A rapid flow test Covid-19 involves a drop of blood and the result is ready within 10 minutes
A rapid flow test Covid-19 involves a drop of blood and the result is ready within 10 minutes

LF tests are used to process samples at the point of care, without the need for specialist laboratory equipment or sample storage. The accuracy and specificity of such tests, and the ability to rapidly adapt to, and detect, viral mutations is critical when faced with the rapid spread of new coronavirus variants.

Chris Littlewood, CEO of Activiotec, said: “We are in no doubt that the Coronex platform has re-engineered and revolutionised lateral flow technology. The adaptability of the technology is vitally important when we see the rapid spread of the new coronavirus variants; and whilst our primary focus has been on SARS-CoV-2, the same core technology could have applications for other infectious agents, or in detecting auto-antibodies in autoimmune disorders or monitoring therapeutic antibodies used as drug treatments. We have proven the technology works and with further investment can accelerate translation into widespread clinical use.”

Coronex’s technological advancements optimise the mechanism by which the Covid-19 antibodies are detected in the LF test, thereby minimising ambiguous or inaccurate results.

Coronex is now seeking an investment partner that can support further development and validation.

Graham Watson, executive chairman of Scottish Health Innovations
Graham Watson, executive chairman of Scottish Health Innovations

Graham Watson, executive chairman of Scottish Health Innovations, said: “The rapid research and development efforts of a homegrown team of experts, combined with the regulatory and commercial expertise of Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL), has brought Coronex to the stage of patent application. It is a vital breakthrough that we are immensely proud to be part of.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic motivated these efforts, the application of the unique LF technology in other infectious disease areas represents an attractive prospect for investment and acceleration at an incredibly important time.”

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