• University Test Method set for Worldwide Deployment
    Tim Dafforn
  • Robert Kasprzak

News & Views

University Test Method set for Worldwide Deployment

Aug 08 2022

A team of scientists at the University of Birmingham who invented and tested a rapid COVID-19 detection method has licenced its findings to one of the world’s largest COVID-19 lateral flow test providers Innova Medical Group, Inc, which is aiming to accelerate the new technology for global roll-out in 2023.

Known as Reverse Transcription-Free EXPAR (RTF-EXPAR) detailed test evaluations of this method have enabled detection at low viral levels in less than 10 minutes, suggesting its potential for deployment at entertainment venues, airport arrival terminals as well as to remote settings where clinical testing laboratories are not available. Crucially, it can be used with testing techniques which bypass the need for laboratory equipment, reducing delays in receipt of test results. The new platform is also being adapted for the detection of new variants and new viruses.

Robert Kasprzak, Chief Executive Officer at Innova, said: “The RTF technology developed at the University of Birmingham hits a testing sweet spot. It’s just as sensitive as PCR and LAMP tests, but without the time constraints and laboratory equipment required for these methods. We’re excited about accelerating RTF’s growth and further complementing our current portfolio of healthcare diagnostic products, strengthening the pandemic management solutions we offer to global customers.

“Our team has been searching globally for advanced diagnostics technologies to manage the current pandemic and mitigate future healthcare challenges. We were deeply impressed by the RTF testing method and all it has to offer. The team behind it deserve enormous credit for their innovation.

“Our aim is to provide effective, high-quality diagnostic products at reasonable prices to more people around the world,” Mr Kasprzak added.

Professor Tim Dafforn from the University of Birmingham said: “The RFT test rapidly amplifies small quantities of viral genetic material, producing a detectable signal within 10 minutes, much faster than PCR or LAMP testing and even quicker than lateral flow tests.

“The reverse transcription and amplification steps slow down existing COVID assays like LAMP and PCR, which are based on nucleic acid detection. An ideal test would have the ‘best of both worlds’ - both sufficiently sensitive and speedy. The new RTF test achieves that goal in two ways. Firstly, the assay team designed a new RNA-to-DNA conversion step that avoids reverse transcription and secondly, the amplification step to generate the read-out signal uses EXPAR, an alternative DNA amplification process.

Professor James Tucker from the University of Birmingham said: “EXPAR amplifies DNA at a single temperature, thus avoiding lengthy heating and cooling steps found in PCR. However, while LAMP also uses a single temperature for amplification, EXPAR is a simpler and a more direct process, in which much smaller strands are amplified. This makes EXPAR an even faster DNA amplification technique than not only PCR but also LAMP.”

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