Oxford, Prenetics to take their COVID-19 rapid testing tech to other infectious
While most of the world can’t wait to leave the COVID-19 pandemic and its many disastrous accouterments behind, researchers are hoping at least one aspect of the outbreak sticks around: the prevalence of rapid molecular testing.
To that end, the University of Oxford, its Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) in China and Prenetics, a Hong Kong-based test maker, have partnered to further develop the technology behind Oxford’s rapid COVID test so that it can be used to diagnose other infectious diseases around the world.
The agreement spans three years and is backed by millions of dollars, the exact amount of which was not disclosed.
Researchers will be based in both Oxford and the new Prenetics Innovation Technology Centre for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics, to be located within OSCAR’s Suzhou campus. The teams will work toward advancing Oxford’s existing OxLAMP molecular testing technology so that it can be used for rapid, widescale testing of infectious diseases beyond the coronavirus.
The OxLAMP COVID-19 test has shown promising results: It can detect the presence of the virus with 96% sensitivity in just 20 minutes and can be processed outside of a traditional lab setting. The test has been approved for use in the European Union and U.K., and is in the process of being submitted for an emergency authorization by the FDA.
“When we think about the future, especially with the pandemic, it’s very apparent that testing is here to stay with us for years to come,” said Zhanfeng Cui, founding director of OSCAR and a chemical engineering professor at Oxford. “Our goal is to decentralize laboratory testing with rapid, highly accurate molecular testing, not just for COVID-19 but for all infectious diseases.”
The partnership is a direct result of the success of Prenetics’ acquisition of Oxford’s COVID testing spinout Oxsed, Cui said.
Prenetics’ subsidiary DNAFit Life Sciences took over the company in October with a goal of making the Oxsed nasal swab diagnostic test more widely accessible, especially in low- and middle-income countries. It has since been deployed to screen passengers in international airports in London and Hong Kong.
Oxford and Prenetics aren’t the only ones looking ahead to a future in which the rapid testing market continues to boom, even as it is no longer dominated by COVID.
Roche, which secured FDA authorization last fall for a molecular test that simultaneously screens for COVID and the flu, signed a $1.8 million deal in March to acquire GenMark Diagnostics to further expand its molecular testing capabilities.
Like the Oxford and Prenetics deal, this one also aims to bring diagnostics for a range of infectious diseases to a broad international audience.