A trio of iiCON projects progressing innovative diagnostic solutions

iiCON is working closely with regional SMEs to support the development and evaluation of new innovative diagnostics.

Companies have worked with the consortium to validate new products, accelerate the development of impactful new diagnostics, and rapidly bring new diagnostics to market.

Here, we explore three of the projects delivered over the last 12 months through iiCON’s Merseyside SME Support Programme, Formulated Materials for Infectious Disease Prevention, which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This programme offers access to academic expertise and facilities to support innovation in Merseyside companies.

Dr Lisa Baldwin, who leads iiCON’s ERDF programme said: “It’s great to see the innovations coming through from the regional SMEs who’ve engaged with our programme. iiCON has now supported 11 Merseyside SMEs to develop and advance their products, connecting them with world-leading academic research expertise and facilities that accelerate product development and overcome barriers to market. Many of these innovations have played an important role in the UK COVID effort and will bolster the response to future pandemics and infectious disease challenges.”

Nano Biosols: Developing ‘game-changing’ lateral flow test technology

Following a collaboration with iiCON, Nano Biosols, an SME based at Liverpool Science Park, has filed a patent for novel technology it has developed to enhance the sensitivity of lateral flow tests – enabling their use across a much broader range of diseases.

Lateral flow tests have been routinely used during the pandemic to detect infection. However, although lateral flow tests are a relatively cheap, user-friendly, and effective testing method, they are generally not as sensitive as the gold standard PCR test for detecting active infection. Nano Biosols’ novel gold nanoparticle technology can improve the sensitivity and readability of lateral flow tests in cases where detection lines are only faintly displayed.

Nano Biosols worked with iiCON and its partners at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) to undertake initial testing and evaluation of its novel technology. The diagnostics team at LSTM was able to evaluate lateral flow test performance with and without the addition of the Nano Biosols reagent and showed improved detection limits and readability of tests.

Excalibur Healthcare Services: Rapid diagnostics playing a key role in the COVID effort

iiCON and its partners at LSTM worked with Excalibur Healthcare Services Ltd, a UK-based provider of high-quality medical products and services, to support the company to validate its Rapid SARS COV-2 Antigen Screening test), in 2021.

The Excalibur Rapid SARS COV-2 Antigen Screening demonstrated consistently excellent results when tested independently by LSTM.

The test was the first ever lateral flow antigen test to receive regulatory approval from the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in mass screening for COVID-19 in asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic and symptomatic populations.

It has successfully been used in screening trials in hospitals, healthcare environments, offices, retail chains, workplaces, care homes, a retirement village, several businesses and professional sports clubs  – playing a key role in the UK’s COVID effort.

MAST Group Ltd: Developing innovative COVID-19 diagnostics

iiCON worked with Merseyside SME MAST Group Ltd to support the evaluation of an innovative COVID-19 diagnostic.

MAST developed a novel virus inactivation buffer to be used alongside its proprietary MAST ISOPLEX®SARS-CoV-2 kit, a molecular test for the qualitative detection of SARS-Cov-2 in people with symptoms of COVID-19 in 2021.

Through iiCON, MAST accessed support from LSTM’s expert team to assess the assay and buffer performance using live virus. The team at LSTM was able to demonstrate strong test performance and opened up opportunities for a further clinical evaluation of the technology.