The initiative will develop a handheld device which is the first diagnostic kit developed in the UK to be jointly-manufactured in Africa.
As part of its £46 million (about $60 million) coronavirus prevention and research funding package, the UK government has awarded a £1million (about $1.3 million) grant to Mologic, a British biotech firm, to develop “point of need” test kits that can diagnose Covid-19 in 10 minutes.
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They are doing so in partnership with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar and five other international research organizations to manufacture the handheld test kits device which has been scheduled for June.
Manufacturing of the test kits will happen at DiaTropix, a new custom-built facility for epidemics-related innovation, in Dakar, Senegal.
The rapid test will work without electricity and does not need a laboratory analysis to give results for coronavirus. This will enable health workers to detect cases and place people under quarantine quickly.
According to Mologic Medical Director, Joe Fitchett diagnostic tools that can be used at home and in low resource areas need to be deployed to bring the current outbreak to an end.
“Rapid detection of the virus is important to stop its spread. We are pleased that the UK government has acknowledged this, supporting Mologic and the work of our partners to prevent further outbreaks internationally,” Fitchett said.
Mologic, which has previously created similar test kits for Ebola, measles and yellow fever, will have prototypes of its coronavirus test kit validated by specialists in the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the University of London, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the University of Malaya, Malaysia and Fiocruz in Brazil.
In areas with laboratories that have the capacity to conduct the test, results from samples being tested for the novel coronavirus can be ready within 24-hours. However, in low-income countries where accurate testing for coronavirus posed a challenge, the UK government says the rapid test would be beneficial.
“Rapid testing is going to be key to managing this outbreak, but ultimately vaccines are going to provide the long-term protection we need,” Patrick Vallance, the UK Government chief scientific officer said.