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Oxford scientists create rapid COVID-19 test

University of Oxford scientists have developed a COVID-19 test which produces results within 30-45 minutes.

Oxford’s test will cost no more than £20, cheaper than those currently on the market, and will not require specialist training or equipment.

Developed by a new spinout company, Oxsed, the test is a simplified, one-step version of the viral RNA test. It generates a coloured result from a throat or nasal swab which can be read by the naked eye. Researchers say it can be used without additional tools or training.

Tests are also linked into a laboratory information system via Bluetooth so that results can be tracked. Researchers believe that it could be adapted for use in schools, airports, and for home self-testing.

The University has said the test could help combat the virus in developing countries: “Across the world, countries face the combined challenges of controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2 while maintaining an economically productive workforce. Current testing relies on complex lab tests with supply chain issues arising from unprecedented demand; challenges of sample collection and turnaround time for results.

“Developing countries also suffer from a lack of testing labs and the financing of mass testing. Yet effective testing strategies are key for releasing countries from lockdown in a safe and sustainable way.”

Professor Zhanfeg Cui, Director of Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR), added: “Our test is ideal for use in community or field settings by lay persons and allows immediate decisions to be made.  

“Immediate applications are: returning to work/education (i.e. schools, universities, companies) and making quarantine decision (e.g. care homes, hospitals, temporary migrants, tourists). Use of such a test could be crucial to economic recovery globally.”

Oxford University Innovation (OUI) has supported the formation of Oxsed to develop the test. Oxsed aims to “commercialise and distribute technology jointly developed at Oxford University and OSCAR for detection of COVID-19.”

Dr Jane Lin, a Licensing and Venture Manager for OUI, said: “Speed of response is crucial in the current pandemic, and we are very pleased to have supported our researchers through the commercialisation process in just three months. Now that the social venture has been incorporated we look forward to seeing the technology deployed globally at scale, in particular in resource-poor developing countries.”

The test will be certified and released commercially soon. Researchers say they will publish their results in the near future.

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