Government picks Oxford Nanopore’s tech in roll out of new COVID-19 test

Oxford Nanopore’s factory at Harwell Campus

Ground-breaking British technology will provide hundreds of thousands of fast, accurate, low-cost COVID-19 tests under new agreement with the UK Government, with the potential to build to millions of tests per month.

The government has asked Harwell-based DNA sequencing company Oxford Nanopore is to roll out its novel LamPORE test. This will support the UK’s efforts to manage the continued reduction of COVID-19 and containment of new cases..

Under the agreement, an initial 450,000 LamPORE SARS-CoV-2 tests will be made available to NHS testing laboratories. As well as providing a large number of tests for existing labs, the programme will help the UK to understand the different use cases for the technology, for example the potential asymptomatic screening of frontline staff.

Testing using Oxford Nanopore’s LamPORE results can be generated in under two hours.

Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore, said: “We are honoured to be playing a part in fighting COVID-19 in the UK, and preparing the country for the winter virus season. Ever since we founded Oxford Nanopore, our mission has been to create disruptive, high- performance technology that has a profound, positive impact on society. LamPORE has the potential to deliver a highly effective and, crucially, accessible global testing solution, not only for COVID-19 but for a range of other pathogens. We are delighted to be working with the UK government to support and empower our communities to effectively manage testing at a national and localised level.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Oxford Nanopore’s new rapid LamPORE tests will benefit thousands of people with fast and accurate test results, removing uncertainty and breaking chains of transmission quickly and safely.

“I am hugely grateful for the fantastic work Oxford Nanopore have done to push forward this important innovation in coronavirus testing.”

LamPORE detects active infection, providing a complementary testing solution to antibody detection, which is currently only able to indicate a previous infection. It is designed to test saliva and swab RNA samples, whether gathered from people who are showing symptoms of COVID, or those who do not have symptoms.

LamPORE uses Oxford Nanopore’s sequencing technology to precisely identify  amplified sections of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, after it has been targeted and amplified using RT-LAMP. This method of detection can differentiate between actual SARS-CoV2 presence and errors that can occur during amplification, which can be a source of ‘false positive’ results.

Oxford Nanopore was spun out of the University of Oxford, and has since developed and brought to market a new generation of tools for biological analysis. The Company opened up a new, high-tech manufacturing facility in Oxford in 2019 to support rapid-scaleup of production.