Extending the shelf life of COVID-19 test kits

Testing for COVID-19 in the UK, and indeed globally, is a huge task and more testing will be needed to both monitor and control the spread of the disease.  However, a severe limitation of swab samples which collect infected cells from the upper respiratory tract is their short shelf life of only 48-72 hours at 2-8°C. Cells are fragile and unable to survive outside their normal environment, limiting the amount of time they can be tested to detect the virus. Expired samples can no longer be used for reliable diagnostic purposes, and would lead to patients needing to be re-tested.

This award recognises the potential for using Atelerix’s unique and innovative hydrogel technology within current swab kits to encapsulate the cellular material, protecting it from mechanical stress and stabilising it at room temperature. The project will use this technology to design a novel and innovative storage kit to preserve swab samples at room temperature to extend the viability of testing samples way beyond 72 hours (up to two weeks). This not only has immediate implications in the current global efforts in diagnosing coronavirus, but could be a monumental step to stabilising swab samples used to detect a plethora of diseases and conditions

“We are thrilled that the UK government has recognised the potential of our technology to be used in the fight against COVID-19” said Mick McLean, CEO of Atelerix. “Extending the shelf life of viral swab samples contributes to the government’s goal of increasing daily testing for COVID-19 by allowing more patient samples to be collected so they can be safely stored for longer, or transported further afield to centralised testing facilities. The aim is to reduce the inherent unreliability in current testing as the fragile cells are protected from degradation by Atelerix’s hydrogel.”

Atelerix’s “Ready” range of products, are widely used for the storage and transport of human cells and tissues at room temperature, removing the need the potential for cell degradation or damage of fragile biological material.  Atelerix sells its products and services to customers in the cell therapy sector, as well as those developing cells, bio-printing cellular structures, manufacturing organoids and building cellular assays for use in research and drug discovery.   This Innovate UK award as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy initiative equips Atelerix to now help optimise global disease testing for COVID-19, and in the future could be applied to other disease diagnostic kits.

Click here to read the government’s press release