Heathrow CEO: Fast-track 20-second COVID test
Posted on September 10, 2020 by Jonathan Symcox
A new screening device which can deliver COVID-19 test results in 20 seconds has launched.
The CEO of Heathrow Airport has called for the Virolens system, which has undergone a successful three-week trial at the leading air transport hub, to be fast-tracked around the UK.
The speed of tests conducted using the screening device, combined with its portability, could provide a major boost to transport hubs, offices and sporting and cultural events venues reopening after lockdown.
Virolens has been developed by British start–up iAbra, with design and manufacturing expertise from TT Electronics and technology powered by Intel.
Based on microscopic holographic imaging and artificial intelligence, the screening device uses a digital camera attached to a microscope to analyse saliva samples, with the data run through a computer which is trained to identify the virus from other cells, delivering an end result in just 20 seconds.
The Virolens system has a 99.8% sensitivity and 96.7% specificity, based on the results of an internal in-vitro validation study, designed by the University of Bristol.
Current gold–standard WHO PCR COVID tests are conducted in offsite laboratories by biologists using traditional ‘wet testing’ techniques, involving intrusive swabs and can take several hours to produce a result.
“Testing for COVID-19 is the lifeline that the UK economy needs to get back on its feet,” said John Holland Kaye, CEO at Heathrow Airport.
“Currently the bottleneck is the availability of the government’s preferred PCR testing labs – Rapid Point of Care tests solve that problem.
“I have experienced iAbra’s test myself, alongside the PCR test – it is quicker and cheaper, and potentially more accurate.
“We urge the government to fast-track this technology to protect the economy and help save millions of jobs in this country.”
The Virolens system is able to count individual active virus cells in any sample.
Initial trial orders have now been secured with launch customers around the world, including London Heathrow and Leidos in the United States.
Virolens is about to embark on clinical trials which would be necessary for it to be certified for medical use.
Greg Compton, CEO of iAbra, said: “This is a significant step forward in the battle against COVID-19, much of which has revolved around our inability to keep society moving with the constant background threat of infection.
“Our system allows simple, high speed, reliable and low-cost testing in dynamic environments. In short, with the Virolens system, we can get the world moving again.”