Boohoo Founders Team Up With Biotech Firm To Create Home Coronavirus Test
The founders of fashion retailer Boohoo have teamed up with a Cambridge-based biotech firm called Avacta to produce a coronavirus test that can be performed at home using saliva, and provides results in just ten minutes
The antigen test will be available to buy, and will bear some similarity to a pregnancy test that uses saliva instead of urine.
At the minute, the NHS test for Covid-19 relies on swabbing the tonsils and nostrils in a manner that can be uncomfortable.
Furthermore, a recent study from not-for-profit group medRvix, operating with backing from Yale University, discovered that saliva is actually a better way to check for coronavirus than nasal swabs, because saliva is more sensitive for detection.
While the test kit is still under development and must be approved by regulators before it can hit the shelves, it is expected that the product will be on sale in the UK by July.
They'll also seek out regulatory approval in the USA and Europe as well.
The deal signed on Wednesday saw Avacta team up with Medusa19, a company set up by Boohoo founder Mahmud Kamani and former non-executive director Richard Hughes, to exclusively distribute the test kits online.
Medusa19 will also have non-exclusive rights to provide tests for workplace screening to businesses.
The chief executive of Avacta, Alistair Smith, compared the test to an over-the-counter HIV test, which is currently sold for around £25 ($30).
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However, it becomes significantly cheaper if health organisations or businesses buy in larger amounts.
He said: "The significant investment that Medusa19 is making in conjunction with the track records of the Medusa19 team gives me great confidence in the rapid growth of direct-to-consumer sales of the Avacta Covid-19 test across the United Kingdom, European Union and the United States subject to the necessary regulatory approvals.
"I expect the commercial impact of this partnership to be very significant to Avacta."
Avacta has already received inquiries from workplaces that want to test their staff to ensure a safe return to work.
As the world emerges from several months of lockdown, it will be necessary to test millions of people to see if they've contracted the virus. Avacta is also currently seeking more partners to help make the test strip.
Smith added: "The potential size of this market, and the expected demand from businesses for workforce screening, is substantial."
This test is thought to be the world's first home testing kit that provides results in a short amount of time with no samples having to be sent to a laboratory.
A saliva-based kit was developed and given emergency approval in the USA in April, but that kit relies on laboratory processing to provide a result.
Further research performed by Avacta discovered that the Affirmer reagents used in the kit block interaction between the spike protein of the virus and human cell receptors to which it binds.
That means that it could have the potential to prevent infection, and could be used to develop an Affirmer therapy, for which Avacta is also seeking partners.
Kamani and Hughes said: "Given this test will be saliva-based, it could be used in airports, offices, factories and in the home environment, providing a result within minutes and with no requirement for medical supervision."
Featured Image Credit: Boohoo