‘This could change it all’: Norwich scientists developing home coronavirus test kit

PUBLISHED: 15:56 30 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:56 30 April 2020

Iceni Diagnostics is beginning development of a coronavirus test. Pictured is chief executive Professor Rob Field with a test similar to the format the coronavirus test will be. Picture: Iceni Diagnostics

Iceni Diagnostics is beginning development of a coronavirus test. Pictured is chief executive Professor Rob Field with a test similar to the format the coronavirus test will be. Picture: Iceni Diagnostics

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A Norwich company could be at the forefront of coronavirus diagnosis as it works to develop a home test kit.

Inside the ICeni Diagnostics lab, which is developing a home test for the coronavirus. (Inset) Chairman Berwyn Clarke. Picture: Simone Dedola/HoldsworthAssociatesInside the ICeni Diagnostics lab, which is developing a home test for the coronavirus. (Inset) Chairman Berwyn Clarke. Picture: Simone Dedola/HoldsworthAssociates

Iceni Diagnostics, which is based at the Norwich Research Park, has previously created kits which can identify influenza, equine flu and norovirus.

Now the company has said it is focusing all its energy on creating a kit which can give users a yes or no answer on whether they have the flu, or the coronavirus.

The company uses sugar recognition in its tests instead of viral genetic codes which are used in most laboratory tests.

This means the tests will be able to accurately identify the coronavirus – even if it mutates.

Dr Berwyn Clarke of Iceni Dianostics. Picture: Iceni DianosticsDr Berwyn Clarke of Iceni Dianostics. Picture: Iceni Dianostics

Dr Berwyn Clarke is the chairman of the company, and said: “We have a number of prototypes which successfully identify other types of flu. We’ve got the technology so clearly we’re focusing all of our efforts on now angling it at the coronavirus.”

Dr Clarke said the test could take up to six months to develop.

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He said: “We’re currently raising funds of between £1m and £2m for development. We’re a team of eight but this would allow us to get more hands on deck. We’d like to raise the funds from a range of sources and that is going well – we’ve had interest internationally who are extremely keen for this to get going.”

The test would look like a pregnancy test, with users putting their saliva on the end of the stick.

Within 20 minutes, the test would tell you whether you have the coronavirus, influenza, or not.

Dr Clarke said: “This could change it all. At the moment what people – and particularly NHS staff – are struggling with is whether or not they are carrying it, or if they do have symptoms, whether it’s for the coronavirus or something else.

“This would allow people to potentially do it at home. Currently the tests are expensive and take quite a while to come back, which hopefully this would solve.”

Dr Clarke added that Iceni Diagnostics is in conversation with both the Medical Research Council and Public Health England about the research.

He said: “We’ll be looking at special dispensation if we are told we are not allowed to come onto the site so that we can continue to work on this.

“We usually say it takes about six months to get this sort of prototype launched, and that’s with a good head wind. We are hoping that we may be able to speed this up if we can bring on more people and find a way for the team all to work on it.”


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