Kromek (AIM: KMK), a worldwide supplier of detection technology focusing on the medical, security screening and nuclear markets, announces that it has commenced a £1.25m programme funded by Innovate UK to customise its biological threat-detection solution for the automated detection of all airborne viruses, including COVID-19, to support end-use cases.
The Group’s solution is designed to be deployed in high footfall locations, such as airports, hospitals, retail outlets and entertainment venues. The base technology, which is fully developed, samples the air in-situ to detect and analyse airborne pathogens using DNA sequencing. In response to the pandemic, the initial focus is on productising the technology to develop a system that will rapidly test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It will run automatically and the results will not require analysis by trained individuals or specialist laboratories.
By detecting the virus in the air in real time, rather than solely relying on the testing of individuals or development of symptoms in individuals, the system will enable earlier identification of potential infection exposure to help reduce transmission. It will also support facilities management such as by enabling site operators to know what level of ventilation is required from the HVAC system or when decontamination is necessary.
In addition, the system will have the capability to test for a wide spectrum of viruses, including mutations of SARS-CoV-2. This will support the development of a bio-resilience solution against the spread of new strains of COVID-19 or other novel viruses that could result in future pandemics.
Kromek is engaging with potential customers for the COVID-19 detection system to develop deployment models and identify how it can best fit their needs. The Group will provide any necessary customisation of the system ahead of piloting by those user groups. The Group expects the first pilots with potential users to commence by the end of this financial year and anticipates commercial deployment in 2021/22.
The funding has been awarded under an 18-month programme of UK Research and Innovation (“UKRI”), which is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy that brings together the UK’s seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. The programme seeks to support the development of solutions to address and mitigate the health, social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr Arnab Basu, CEO of Kromek, said: “We are very pleased to have received backing from UKRI and Innovate UK to progress the deployment of our solution for the detection of airborne COVID-19. Our system can augment the government’s Test and Trace system by enabling early identification of potential exposure to the virus while supporting the safe return of visitors to public spaces like mass transport, retail outlets and entertainment venues. We also believe that the continuous monitoring with our system, which can test for a wide spectrum of viruses as well as mutations of COVID-19, has significant potential for protecting against the outbreak of pandemics in the future.”