Q-POC: British-made device can identify Covid within 30 minutes in huge breakthrough

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The world-first – known as Q-POC – has the potential to revolutionise the way killer conditions are identified and speed up treatment. And it could become a significant tool in the fight against epidemic and pandemic threats, being used at airports to instantly screen passengers arriving from infected countries, hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and clinics. On the NHS it could potentially benefit millions of patients who could have test results back in minutes before surgery.

The groundbreaking £6,000 device, made by Newcastle-based QuantuMDx, will be unveiled at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases conference, eight years after this newspaper exclusively revealed it was in production.

Chief executive Jonathan O’Halloran, who started the company from his garage in Uckfield, East Sussex, said: “Q-POC represents a new class of molecular diagnostic device – it’s fast, battery-operated, can multiplex and is so simple to operate anyone can be trained to use it. It’s a true point of care diagnostic system. 

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“Our system is future-proof and packs a great deal of complexity and power behind its modern lines and simple operation. Our Covid test is just the first in a portfolio designed to meet real clinical needs.”

The kit can also be used to diagnose drug resistance, telling professionals whether a patient will adversely react to treatment. And it can provide rapid diagnosis for any infectious disease, including TB, malaria, HIV, ebola, bird flu and STIs.

The device has undergone rigorous testing at St George’s, University of London.

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Sanjeev Krishna, Professor of Molecular Parasitology and Medicine, said: “We are simply delighted to see the successful outcome of years of efforts to compress a diagnostics laboratory into a simple, portable and flexible device. The Q-POC platform was invented to address urgent diagnostic needs, particularly for pinch points for Covid management in the NHS, and the community.”

The device works by analysing a sample of DNA either by a nasal swab, urine sample or cervical smear. The swab is placed into a tube where it mixes with a soup of chemicals to break open viral organisms. 

The Sample is inserted into a cassette and put through a filter and washed, leaving only the isolated DNA of the virus. 

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A molecular “photocopier” turns one copy into one billion copies in just five minutes by rapidly heating and cooling the sample. 

Through a process called hybridisation, probes match the DNA sample to a database of samples searching for a match for the code of an infectious disease. Within 30 minutes a report is printed off providing a positive or negative diagnosis and advising on best drugs to use.

QuantuMDx was awarded £16million of taxpayer funding as the Covid crisis erupted in March last year to develop the portable diagnostic testing system after Prime Minister Boris Johnson read about the ground-breaking device in the Daily Express and visited the company’s HQ. 

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