In February, RAZOR's Jo Colan met Chris Toumazou – an engineering professor at Imperial College London whose company DnaNudge had developed genetic testing cartridges to help people make healthy food choices based on their DNA.
Since then, Toumazou's team has adapted the product's process to test for something much more immediately injurious to your health – the presence of the coronavirus. RAZOR caught up with Toumazou to see how the tech can help keep COVID-19 at bay.
"It's almost binary," he explains: "You've either got the virus or you don't. Unlike the genetics that we were looking at, where we're looking at mutations in our DNA and our sequence, here we're just looking at do you have the viral RNA or don't you?"
Toumazou reveals how the coronavirus hit surprisingly close to home during research. "One of the clinical virologists had a very, very small cough on the first day we tested this," he says. "We asked him to test himself, and he was so positive – one of the strongest signals we'd ever seen. He wouldn't have known."
The DnaNudge testing gives results in about an hour, hugely accelerating the checking process. As a result, the UK government has asked the company to help on the front line.
"We will deploy this within particular niche areas where the point of care aspects are really useful," says Toumazou. "The Department of Health are quite keen for us to focus on borderline cases in areas where staff might have a suspicion of the virus – maternity wards, surgery, A&E. Those are the areas that we're collaborating on."
Check out The Pandemic Playbook, CGTN Europe's major investigation into the lessons learned from COVID-19