NEWS9 June 2020

Surrey Research Park companies join forces with Universities to develop rapid COVID-19 test kit

A new COVID -19 test kit, which can detect the presence of the virus in six different individuals simultaneously in under 30 minutes, is one step closer to coming to market following a partnership deal with leading electronic, robotics and software companies.

The University of Surrey together with Brunel University London and Lancaster University have joined forces with Inovo Robotics and Unique Secure both located on Surrey Research Park, as well as GB Electronics (UK) Ltd. The partnership is working to develop an inexpensive, rapid, diagnostic test kit that can inform people if they have COVID-19 in under 30 minutes and make it widely available.

The new partnership deal will bring together industry and academic experts in the fields of electronic and software engineering, diagnostics, virology, robotics and artificial intelligence to fast track the development of a new COVID-19 testing kit.

It is envisaged that the portable testing device, which can carry out six highly accurate tests every 30 minutes, can be used in areas with large concentrations of people, such as care homes, sizeable employers and airports, to quickly determine if an individual has the virus. The results from the current virus detection tests normally take several hours to process.

The inexpensive nature of the portable testing kit will make testing for COVID-19 more accessible in developing countries, in which remote communities may not have easy immediate access to high-quality medical facilities.

Clinical tests in three NHS hospitals will begin shortly to validate the performance of the SARS-CoV-2 test kit.

David Rimer, CEO at Unique Secure, comments: “We are extremely proud to have been chosen to collaborate on this critical project and be the company chosen to deliver the solution so pertinent for the new emerging world we all now live in. Unique Secure’s solid experience in delivering innovation through technology development will ensure that this rapid point-of care diagnostic kit is made available to those facilities that most need it.”

Henry Woods, co-founder of Inovo Robotics, comments:  “We are very pleased to be involved in this important work with the three Universities. Many vulnerable people around the world have had limited or no access to fast Covid-19 virus testing during the pandemic, we see the potential to make a real difference in limiting the spread of the virus through this technology. We will be using our commercial experience in electronics design and manufacturing to bring a robust and scalable product to market as quickly as possible. We also intend to lever our expertise in robotics and automation to further help with sample processing and handling in the future. This would increase throughput further while removing operators from the hazard of potential infection – a key technology adapting our ways of working to live with CV-19 in the long term.”

Malcolm Parry, CEO of Surrey Research Park, comments: “We are delighted that two companies located on Surrey Research Park have joined the partnership on this urgently needed initiative. As part of the University of Surrey, we are tirelessly working hard to help forge partnerships between industry and academia. We are very proud of the work from our tenants in the fight against COVID-19; many companies have demonstrated incredible agility and tenacity to adapt, survive and successfully serve their community.”

Professor Wamadeva Balachandran from Brunel University London said: “There remains an urgent need to develop testing for COVID-19 which is quick and inexpensive. This will enable those who test positive to self-isolate as quickly as possible, helping to reduce the spread of the virus.

“I am delighted that GB Electronics, Inovo Robotics and Unique Secure have joined us on this exciting project, their expertise will help accelerate the development of this test on a mass scale to minimise loss of lives.”