Oxford spin-out to launch £20 COVID test

A spin-out company from Oxford University named Oxsed Limited, has developed a test for COVID-19 that costs £20 per test.

The team from the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research have developed a quick test which detects the presence of virus. The company hopes the technology could be adapted for use in settings ranging from community care, schools, airports or home self-testing.

The spin-out aims to commercialise and distribute the technology following CE-mark approval.

The team designed primers with high specificity to confirm presence of the virus in infected people, adapted from an technology known as RT-LAMP (reverse transcription-loop mediated isothermal amplification). The test provides results in 30-45 minutes and is said to  detect COVID-19 with great sensitivity and specificity using throat/nasal swabs.

The results of the clinical trials will be published shortly. The company said the ‘clinical trials gave comparable results with laboratory tests, demonstrating reliability’.

Prof Zhanfeng Cui, the Director of OSCAR, said: “Our test is ideal for use in community or field settings by lay persons and allows immediate decisions to be made. Use of such a test could be crucial to economic recovery globally.”

Prof Wei Huang, who designed the primers to target the viral RNA explained the advantage of the Oxford test: “By designing the specific primers and controlling the biochemical reaction, we are able to eliminate the non-specific reactions that cause false positives and make our RT-LAMP test robust. And the Oxford test can be transported and stored at ambient temperature without need for cold chain, which makes shipping and distribution much easier.”

Dr Monique Andersson, Consultant Virologist and Director of Microbiology, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who leads the clinical validation of the test said: “An advantage of using LAMP technology is that it uses different reagents to most laboratory-based PCR tests. Implementation of this test for screening would ease the pressure on the PCR reagent supply chain in the NHS. In terms of its wider application, the assay requires little infrastructure and is relatively low cost making it a viable option for widespread testing in LMIC.”