‘Pregnancy test’ for coronavirus detection being developed in Coventry

The tool uses sugars, not antibodies or genetic material, to identify the virus, looking like a ‘pregnancy test’ and giving immediate results.

Researchers at the University of Warwick, in Coventry, are developing a new rapid test for detecting coronavirus.

Coronavirus diagnostics currently require infrastructure, such as centralised laboratories and the collection of swabs, plus the results can take a few days to be received.

The new diagnostic tool, being developed by the University and its partner Iceni Diagnostics, will function without any need for training or complex infrastructure and may allow on-the-spot detection.

It uses glycans (sugars) to detect the virus, using a tool very similar to a home pregnancy test.

There is an urgent need for new diagnostics, especially those which give rapid results for screening of healthcare professions and for getting transportation, education and manufacturing hubs running again.

The diagnostic proof of principle has been demonstrated in initial studies, but the University is now searching for investment or philanthropic donors to take the concept forward.

“The rapid detection of the virus for both healthcare and to enable society to return to normal is crucial,” said Professor Matthew Gibson, who holds a joint appointment between the Department of Chemistry and Warwick Medical School.

“Our technology, developed through joint PhD student work with our industry partners, makes use of glyco-nanomaterials to detect a specific portion of the coronavirus.

“The technology is straightforward and extremely low-cost, as the kit is paper-based.”

Dr James Lapworth of Warwick Ventures, who is working with Professor Gibson to commercialise the technology, said: “There is an urgent, global need to increase diagnostic testing capacity for COVID-19 infections.

“This new approach potentially offers significant benefits because it delivers a very rapid result and requires no specialist lab equipment or training to complete.

“The result is that people could determine very quickly whether they have a current infection and take appropriate action, for example to self-isolate.”

Professor Pamela Thomas, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) at the University of Warwick, said: “The new diagnostic tool for rapid COVID-19 detection is a further, clear example of the vital role universities will continue to play during this pandemic – and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Warwick researchers who have devoted themselves to using their skills and knowledge to this essential work.”

The research and development of the new tool has been supported by grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the University of Warwick and Iceni.