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17 Mar 2021 | 08:32

Novacyt launches mobile Covid-19 testing labs

(Sharecast News) - Clinical diagnostics specialist Novacyt announced the expansion of its 'VersaLab' service on Wednesday, with the launch of mobile processing laboratories to provide rapid turnaround polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing on-site. The AIM-traded firm said testing would be performed using mid-nose nasal swabs, which were found to be effective and well-tolerated compared to the more invasive nasopharyngeal swabs in the interim review of Queen Mary University of London's clinical trial in care homes, as it announced in November.

It launched VersaLab in December to support private sector testing of infectious diseases, initially focussing on Covid-19.

Novacyt said it had enabled it to identify a growing number of UK and international mobile testing opportunities across the private sector.

It said the mobile processing laboratories would be equipped with its 'PROmate' assay and 'q16' PCR instruments.

PROmate is thus far the only direct-to-PCR Covid-19 assay approved by the Department of Health and Social Care's technology validation group, the board claimed.

The PROmate workflow, which includes a viral inactivation buffer, meant the mobile processing laboratories did not require a category-2 laboratory to handle the live virus.

As a result, the cost of testing was reduced, as well as the risks associated with handling the live virus in a mobile testing unit.

The workflow allowed Novacyt to provide rapid results to patients in less than 80 minutes, the company said.

With an active pipeline of opportunities, Novacyt said it believed the addition of VersaLab mobile processing laboratories could offer new long-term revenue growth opportunities as the private sector began to take on Covid-19 testing, in a bid to keep businesses open and running efficiently.

Novacyt said it was trialling the mobile laboratories with a number of private testing partners, which are approved customers of the government 'test-to-release' scheme, at various sites in the UK to support international travel.

Each laboratory would be able to process up to 900 Covid-19 samples per day, depending on customer needs.

That throughput model would support multiple use cases, the board said, such as on-site testing at workplaces, schools, sporting and music events.

Novacyt said it was also in the process of validating the use of its 'SNPsig' portfolio with PROmate, to enable a mobile workflow solution that could detect the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and identify variants of concern, to support healthcare providers in rapidly identifying the outbreak of surge infections in localised areas.

"Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Novacyt has focused on innovation to ensure we adapt in line with a rapidly-evolving market," said chief executive officer Graham Mullis.

"The roll-out of our VersaLab mobile processing laboratory units is an exciting development for Novacyt, as we continue to bring PCR technology outside of the central laboratory and closer to patients."

Mullis said the company believed the option would provide companies and communities with "reliable and fast" results to deal with localised surge infections, or for routine localised mass testing.

"The need for localised community testing and monitoring of Covid-19 infections looks set to continue over the next 12 months, and it is our view that much of this testing could be undertaken by the private sector."

At 1019 GMT, shares in Novacyt were up 2.16% at 710.02p.
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