Covid-19: Virus test breakthrough receives £50k innovation grant

Jun 06, 2020

A BID for funding by a Bedfordshire company for the next stage of a project aiming to improve testing for the coronavirus has resulted in a £50,000 grant from Innovate UK.

Life Science Group is working with the University of Bedfordshire to develop a testing method for Covid-19 that inactivates the virus immediately after the swab sample is taken from patients. 

This will stop virus in the samples from being infectious and will therefore reduce the risk to workers from when the sample is taken, through transport, to testing in laboratories. In turn, this will increase the speed of which tests can be done – more localised facilities will be able to run test samples. 

Early validation to determine the effectiveness of the initial formulation has been completed in collaboration with Public Heath England. 

The six-month project will further develop the formulation to ensure that the Viral Inactivation Buffer is safe to use and will also validate the use of the product with viral testing procedures currently in use. The project will also investigate the ability of the buffer to stabilise samples and produce more consistent testing results. 

Dr Robin Maytum, principal lecturer in biomedical science at the University of Bedfordshire, is the scientific lead on the project. He said: “The development and validation of a Viral Inactivation Buffer is a key aim in improving testing. It should eliminate the risks in handling otherwise potentially infectious samples and reduce the number of false negatives in current testing. 

“This will be increasingly important as reliable testing within communities becomes the cornerstone of controlling the spread of the virus.”

The research project follows a national call from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency backed by the government, to develop innovative methodologies to help combat Covid-19.  

Jenny Murray, managing director of Life Science Group

Life Science Group has been working with PHE since early April to supply tubes for sample collection. Managing director Jenny Murray said: “The company is delighted to have been successful with this application and to be able to work with University of Bedfordshire on this project.

“This next step will make a huge and immediate difference to how testing for Covid-19 is handled in this country and elsewhere. The entire team at LSG is delighted that our work is making a difference.”

Results of the research will improve the safety of NHS staff and key workers, said Professor Jan Domin, executive dean of creative arts, technologies and science. “The fight against Covid-19 is ongoing. This research would eliminate the risk of infection to those key workers who are taking samples, transporting samples and conducting tests to keep us all safe.”


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