Two of boohoo’s founders have started a new company to exclusively market and sell a saliva-based test for COVID-19 to consumers around the world.

Medusa19 has been set up by Manchester entrepreneurs Richard Hughes and Mahmud Kamani, who are shareholders in both the fast fashion giant and Avacta Group, which is also listed on the stock exchange.

It has secured the rights for direct-to-consumer sales of the test developed by Yorkshire-based BioTech Avacta.

Avacta recently announced that it rapidly developed Affimer reagents that detect the SARS-COV-2 virus spike protein and it has now supplied those to Cytiva – formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences – for test development.

The group is intending to establish further rapid test strip manufacturing partners in anticipation of a very high demand for the COVID-19 antigen test.

The test, which detects the presence of the COVID-19 antigen in saliva on a strip, gives results in minutes – much like a pregnancy test.

Medusa19’s initial focus will be on COVID-19 home testing and it is currently investing in global eCommerce, logistics and customer support infrastructure in preparation for Avacta’s COVID-19 test launch.

The agreement is subject to the necessary regulatory approvals.

“We immediately recognised the global opportunity to distribute the simple and unique saliva-based COVID-19 rapid test being developed by Avacta based on their unique and powerful Affimer platform,” said Hughes and Kamani.

“Medusa19 will enable end-to-end supply of these tests on a global basis subject to regulatory approval – and manufacturing capacity which will be key.

“The enormous, worldwide demand for these tests requires a robust and scalable platform which we are in the process of creating. Hundreds of millions of tests are required and this demand will continue.

“Given this test will be saliva based, it could be used in airports, offices, factories and in the home environment, providing a result within minutes and with no requirement for medical supervision. It is potentially ground-breaking and a major step forward in the fight against COVID-19.”

Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Avacta Group, commented: “I am delighted to have entered into this distribution agreement with Medusa19, which will provide a global route direct-to-consumer for Avacta’s rapid point-of-care COVID-19 antigen test.

“The potential size of this market, and the expected demand from businesses for workforce screening, is substantial.

“The significant investment that Medusa19 is making in conjunction with the track records of the Medusa19 team, gives me great confidence in the rapid growth of direct-to-consumer sales of the Avacta COVID-19 test across the United Kingdom, European Union and the United States subject to the necessary regulatory approvals. I expect the commercial impact of this partnership to be very significant to Avacta.

“I am looking forward to working with the Medusa19 team on commercialising the COVID-19 rapid test and other consumer diagnostic tests that Avacta develops in the future, in line with the Group’s Affimer diagnostics strategy.”

Medusa19 will also have non-exclusive rights to supply the tests to businesses for workforce testing. The distribution agreement includes a profit-sharing arrangement.