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Sci-Tech Daresbury businesses unite to support development of COVID-19 tests

Two businesses located at Sci-Tech Daresbury have united to develop a vital new research kit that could prove crucial in the fightback against coronavirus.

Arcis Biotechnology, a research and development led company with expertise in the development of a wide range of fast sample preparation technologies, is working with onsite neighbours Perfectus Biomed, a leading Contract Research Organisation (CRO) that provides both standard and customised microbiological testing services.

In response to the shortage of chemicals available for diagnostic testing, Arcis Biotechnology has developed its Coronavirus RNA extraction research kit. This enables users to go from biological sample to downstream testing in under three minutes in most situations and provides all of the necessary reagents to rapidly prepare respiratory tract specimens of molecular testing.

Therefore, within five minutes of a swab being taken from a patient, the sample is ready for diagnostic testing. The simplicity of the process allows it to be used without highly expensive and prohibitive laboratory equipment crucially, this means the test has the potential to be automated, meaning robotics could be used to expedite quicker and more efficient testing.

The methodology and swiftness of such testing would rapidly increase the speed at which tests can be conducted, enabling the most at-risk patients to receive treatment faster while increasing the safety of healthcare workers.

The kit serves as a starting point for collaboration with healthcare organisations and Arcis is currently in discussion with numerous NHS trusts regarding its use. To ensure its regulatory approval, Perfectus Biomed is undertaking antiviral testing on the kit and screening on a molecular basis to ensure it has an efficacy claim against coronavirus.

Additionally, Perfectus has adapted its service to cater to the growing demand for testing of disinfectants and hand gels and has cut the cost of its testing service to make it easier for more products to safely get to market.

Dr Jan Rogers, chief scientific officer, Arcis Biotechnology said: “Our current focus is on developing collaborations with the groups and organisations working on COVID-19 diagnostics. The time it takes to develop a result is critical to enable doctors to know which patients require immediate treatment.

“We are eager to contribute to resolving this global crisis and are prepared to offer samples, technical support, and collaboration efforts that will lead to faster diagnosis and improved healthcare worker safety.”

Dr Samantha Westgate, chief executive officer, Perfectus Biomed said: “Our mission as a business to improve quality of life through exceptional microbiology. During these unprecedented times, we see that as more important than ever. Whether that’s adapting our services to support the development of new hand sanitisers or supporting our Sci-Tech Daresbury neighbours in helping to get their extraction kit into hospitals, we’re determined to use the expertise within our team to support the global fight against coronavirus.

“Like most businesses, our staff have had to adapt to different working conditions during this period. The work both our companies are undertaking would not be possible without their flexibility, whether that’s maintaining social distancing in a lab environment on site at Sci-Tech Daresbury or delivering vital business and admin support while working from home. It’s been inspiring to see how such important work can be delivered in difficult and disruptive circumstances.”

John Downes, group chief executive of Langtree and chair of the Sci-Tech Daresbury joint venture company, said: “We are very proud that Arcis Biotechnology and Perfectus Biomed are using their expertise to help fight the battle against coronavirus. Both are innovative companies at the cutting edge of their respective fields, and Sci-Tech Daresbury will continue to offer them our full support as they undertake this vital work.”