A rapid Covid-19 test developed by Professor Zhanfeng Cui and his team is being used at Heathrow Airport and trialled at Hong Kong International Airport to screen passengers.
The UK’s first pre-departure airport rapid testing facility at Heathrow became operational earlier this month. The facilities, located in Terminals 2 and 5, will initially offer passengers travelling to Hong Kong and Italy the option to fulfil those countries’ pre-departure testing requirements at the airport. The rapid nucleic acid test – Oxsed RaViD Direct – was developed in March by Hertford’s Prof. Cui alongside Prof. Wei Huang and researchers from the Department of Engineering and the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR). The test produces results within 15 to 30 minutes and offers demonstrable sensitivity and specificity, with validated trials showing a 96% positive agreement with 100% specificity.
Oxford team at Heathrow Terminal 5 test centre (Prof. Cui on the right)
The technology was commercialised through a social venture spinout, Oxsed Limited, which was last month acquired by DNAFit Life Sciences, a wholly owned entity of Hong Kong-based genetics and diagnostic health testing company Prenetics. Funds received through the acquisition, and access to Prenetics global network of resources, will greatly accelerate Oxsed’s ambition to provide rapid Covid-19 testing globally, prioritising low- and middle- income countries. A rapid, accurate and affordable point of care test deployed globally could herald a significant development in reducing the spread of the virus between countries.
Prof. Wei Huang, co-founder of Oxsed, said: “Our inspiration to develop this rapid test was conceived at Heathrow Airport when our team returned from OSCAR at the start of the pandemic in January of this year. We felt that rapid testing should be a must for airport screening and our entire team has been working day and night to make this development happen. I am now very pleased to see our tests are actually used at Heathrow and making an impact on safe travel.”
The rapid test is ideal for settings like airports as it can provide results within 30 minutes and could also be adapted for use in community care, hospitals, schools and large-scale events. UK travellers can pre-book an online appointment to take the test in purpose-built facilities at Heathrow, during which a nasal swab is taken for testing. The test is then performed using a RT-LAMP based method developed by Oxford University and taken for immediate processing by Prenetics.
Co-founder Prof. Zhanfeng Cui, adds:
After months of intense work alongside Prenetics, they are undoubtedly the perfect partner to quickly roll out our rapid test at scale, and help society resume to a more normal way of living and productivity. I am very excited that Oxsed can provide a very well-validated technology to the world.
Prof. Cui spoke to us about the development of the test in our first Hertford Responds webinar in May 2020 – catch up now!