University of Surrey invests £200k to enhance new COVID-19 test kit and test for more pathogens

The University of Surrey has invested £200,000 in Vidiia Ltd to help it develop its innovative virus testing technology. The funds will help Vidiia, which is based on the University’s Surrey Research Park, prove the technology can test for more than just COVID-19, making it an indispensable tool in the diagnosis and control of infectious diseases.

In February, Vidiia announced that it had worked with the University of Surrey, Brunel University London and Lancaster University to develop an innovative, easy to use 20-minute COVID-19 test that was more reliable than lateral flow and PCR tests.

Following validation using samples from the Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Vidiia’s Virus Hunter 6 device has been successfully tested on hundreds of University of Surrey student and staff samples. It is currently undergoing further validation in the Royal Surrey County Hospital’s molecular laboratory.

The Virus Hunter 6, so called because it can test six samples simultaneously, is now ready for roll-out for rapid testing in large onsite locations where field-based testing is required. The University of Surrey’s investment will help enable this and will support further research which demonstrates how the technology can be used more widely. Initial findings indicate that the Virus Hunter 6 is also effective at testing for other human and animal pathogens including bacterial infections, so could also help identify and subsequently reduce antibiotic resistance.

Vidiia’s testing device uses LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification – which is more rapid and easier to perform than PCR) technology, a single-tube technique that amplifies the nucleic acid of the virus using nasal or oral swab samples. A unique buffer used in the device reduces processing time, makes handling samples much safer and removes the need to send samples to a laboratory. This state-of-the-art device uses a mixture of swab samples, image processors and AI, all shared with a mobile app, which reduces testing times and possible errors associated with result interpretation.

Roberto La Ragione, Professor of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology at the University of Surrey said: “In addition to having great potential in the ongoing management of COVID-19, the Virus Hunter 6 will help other areas of infectious disease management. In particular, we think it also has an important role to play in tackling bacterial infections and antibiotic resistance. The University of Surrey’s investment is an indication of a strong commitment to innovation and to local growth and economic redevelopment.”

David Rimer, CEO of Vidiia, said: “We’ve made an affordable portable virus diagnostic kit which can be available at the point of care. It’s faster and more reliable than lateral flow and PCR tests, so has great potential. We’re now looking at how else it can benefit society by tracking viruses, bacteria and even identifying antibiotic resistance.”

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