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Stemnovate creates accurate 10-minute Covid-19 test suitable for offices, care homes and schools

Stemnovate has developed a test that can accurately detect Covid-19 in just 10 minutes.

The Babraham Research Park-based company is scaling up manufacture of the test, which it says could be distributed by Christmas.

Ruchi Sharma, CEO of Stemnovate on the Babraham Research Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ruchi Sharma, CEO of Stemnovate on the Babraham Research Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell

It can be used without the need for a laboratory, meaning it is suitable for locations such as offices, care homes, airports and schools - and it does not require a healthcare professional to interpret the result.

The test uses a saliva sample or nasal swab, which is placed in a buffer solution inside a reusable detection kit which has a screen display.

The kit features probes that contain a chemical that reacts specifically with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If the virus is present, a chemical reaction causes a simple colour change after 10 minutes.

Dr Ruchi Sharma, Stemnovate’s CEO, said: “Covid is a challenge for businesses and life, and we have a solution that is accurate, fast and scalable. We worked on a scientific technology that is measurable, with a fast turnround time. Our purpose is to make testing routine part of life and this brings us closer to that.”

Stemnovate, which is known for its organ-on-chip technology, filed for a patent in June for a process that would allow the fast detection of a number of diseases.

As the Cambridge Independent reported, it was able to apply the process to Covid-19, producing a high fidelity nucleic acid amplification test with virus-specific probes that was able to detect the coronavirus in about an hour.

Since then, it has worked with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) through a new programme supporting the UK science industry and has been able to reduce the detection time of the test to 10 minutes using an optical device.

Results from Stemnovate's Covid-19 test kit
Results from Stemnovate's Covid-19 test kit

“It gives you the quantitative measure as the reaction is happening. Previously, we were letting the reaction happen for an hour so you could see it with the eye. But the reaction starts happening within milliseconds, so you can detect it and the kit will tell you whether it is positive or negative,” Dr Sharma told the Cambridge Independent.

Stemnovate’s kit works regardless of the stage of infection, meaning it will pick up asymptomatic carriers.

Dr Fernando Castro, NPL’s head of materials science, said: “NPL conducted a feasibility study of Stemnovate’s Covid-19 quick detection kit under the Measurement for Recovery (M4R) programme, which gives UK business access to world leading measurement science.

“The work we conducted helped to increase the sensitivity of the detection method and demonstrated feasibility to use it as a simple and scalable detection technology.

“The Measurement for Recovery (M4R) programme was set up to help companies that are working on Covid technology like Stemnovate and we hope that we can continue working together to further develop Stemnovate’s technology in detecting Covid-19.”

Stemnovate will now conduct field testing with its partners to ensure people can use it effectively in any setting before making the device available.

“The cost is still being worked out, but it will be much cheaper than the existing tests,” says Dr Sharma. “People will buy the device and the consumables, which are very cheap. It can be made high-throughput for locations such as airports.”

Further investment could enable a home version of the kit to be developed too.

The work follows on from its creation of a £10 rapid diagnostic kit using RT-PCR and Q-PCR that solve the problem of false positives and are now on sale for laboratories, priced at £250 for 25 tests.

Stemnovate's RT-PCR Covid-19 test is on sale to professionals
Stemnovate's RT-PCR Covid-19 test is on sale to professionals

Founded by Dr Sharma in 2016, Stemnovate molecular biology, cellular technologies and microengineering.

Stemnovate is raising funding from investors. To get involved, contact ruchi.sharma@stemnovate.co.uk.

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Stemnovate creates rapid diagnostic kit for Covid-19 that solves problems of false positives

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