Imperial College London receives €500k for COVID-19 test

A team led by Imperial College London will receive support and over €500,000 from EIT Health as part of a COVID-19 ‘Rapid Response’ drive from the EU network.

The team at Imperial, alongside partners from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Abingdon Health, will develop a rapid and ultrasensitive point-of-care diagnostic test for the virus. 

The consortium will develop the test, ‘QwikZyme’, over the next six months. The test is designed to be able to detect ultra-low concentrations of the virus itself, with the aim of earlier diagnosis – and results within an hour. 

QwikZyme lead, Professor Molly Stevens, said: “SARS-CoV-2 is an unprecedented challenge on healthcare systems worldwide. Since last December, the virus has spread all around the world in a few months affecting all continents. The WHO is advocating the need to “test, test, test” to control the spread of the virus. We are developing a point of care device that builds on our expertise in ultrasensitive diagnostic technologies to enable rapid ultrasensitive early virus detection. Our team has direct collaborations with virologists, clinicians, contract manufacturers, the Imperial NHS Trust and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“We are aligned to the WHO REASSURED guidelines for point-of-care testing of infectious diseases (Real-time connectivity, Ease of specimen collection, Affordable, Sensitive, Specific, User-friendly, Rapid & Robust, Equipment-free, Delivered).”

EIT Health has announced funds of over six million euros in the fight against COVID-19, which will be dedicated to 14 specially selected health innovation projects across Europe. The projects will focus on immediate and impactful solutions that can be found to arm health services with better tools in navigating the pandemic. 

In its ‘Rapid Response’ initiative, EIT Health evaluated existing budget provisions for planned projects in 2020 and were able to reallocate funds to support promising solutions that may assist in the fight against COVID-19. The 14 projects selected cover biotechnology, diagnostics, digital health and medtech, and will be run by 36 partners. The projects will work directly with healthcare services as part of the consortia so that the solutions can be built in line with clinical needs and implemented without delay. 

Jan-Philipp Beck, CEO, EIT Health, said: “We are proud of the fast and invaluable action taken by our employees, partners and wider network in response to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has highlighted our vulnerability but it also allows us the opportunity to come together and collaborate to find new ways of strengthening our health systems and create solutions to better equip the healthcare professionals working tirelessly to get us through this extremely difficult time. The projects that we have selected all show great potential using the power of the EIT Health network to develop cutting edge solutions.” 

The projects, which will all be completed by the end of 2020, focus on:

Jorge Fernández García, director of innovation, EIT Health, said: “We thank each and every one of our partners who submitted to our Rapid Response, we received a high volume of creative and innovative proposals focussing on impactful solutions across many areas of pandemic response. The projects have been selected based on their scientific and technological innovation, and address areas of immediate and high unmet need in relation to COVID-19. All projects demonstrated that their implementation could and would be rapid with the support of EIT Health, and that they could be scaled across multiple geographies ensuring that access for many European citizens can be front of mind. Our network means that we are ideally placed to support the collaboration of industry, research, academia, and, crucially, health service delivery (such as large hospitals across Europe), to put solutions in the hands of those who need them.” 

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