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New diagnostic tool for rapid detection of Coronavirus being developed by University of Warwick and Partners

  • University of Warwick researchers are developing a new rapid test for Coronavirus
  • The diagnostic tool will function without any need for training or complex infrastructure, looking like a ‘pregnancy test’
  • The tool uses sugars, not antibodies or genetic material, to identify the virus
  • The team are seeking philanthropic or investment partners to take forward these exciting new opportunities

Coronavirus diagnostics currently require centralised facilities and collection/distribution of swabs and results are ‘next day’. A new diagnostic tool being developed by the University of Warwick and its partner Iceni Diagnostics may allow on-the-spot detection of Coronavirus infection, without facilities using a simple disposal device.

Professor Matthew GibsonA new method to detect coronavirus infections has been developed in the pre-print, The SARS-COV-2 spike protein binds sialic acids, and enables rapid detection in a lateral flow point of care diagnostic device, published by researchers from the University of Warwick, University of Manchester and Iceni Diagnostics ltd based in Norwich. The new diagnostic tool uses glycans (sugars) to detect the virus, using a tool very similar to a home pregnancy test.

There is an urgent need for new diagnostics, especially those which give rapid results for screening of healthcare professions or for getting transportation, education and manufacturing hubs running again.

The diagnostic proof of principle has been demonstrated in initial studies, but the partnership is now searching for investment or philanthropic donors to take the concept forward.

Professor Matthew Gibson who holds a joint appointment between the Department of Chemistry and Warwick Medical School comments:

“The rapid detection of the virus, for both healthcare and to enable society to return to normal is crucial. Our technology, developed through joint PhD student work with our industry partners, makes use of glyco-nanomaterials to detect a specific portion of the coronavirus. The technology is straightforward, and extremely low-cost as the kit is paper-based. The University retained lab-capacity for essential COVID research such as this ensuring we could fulfil the University’s mission to create new knowledge and innovative solutions’.

Professor Robert Field, co-founder and CEO of Iceni diagnostics, comments:

”It is great working with the fabulous talent in the Gibson team at Warwick. Combining our expertise has enabled us to move this project along rapidly - including initial clinical evaluation. We look forward to extending our working relationship with Warwick to explore diagnostics for other infectious diseases based on carbohydrates and glycopolymers”

Dr James Lapworth, Warwick Ventures, who is working with Professor Gibson to commercialise the technology, said:

“There is an urgent, global need to increase diagnostic testing capacity for Covid-19 infections. This new approach potentially offers significant benefits because it delivers a very rapid result and requires no specialist lab equipment or training to complete. The result is that people could determine very quickly whether they have a current infection and take appropriate action, for example to self-isolate.”

Professor Pamela Thomas, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) at the University of Warwick said:

“Through designing and manufacturing PPE for frontline healthcare workers, advising the government on how to stop its spread and working with the NHS to conduct tests - University of Warwick researchers have been at the forefront of the national effort to defeat COVID19 since the start of the pandemic.

“The new diagnostic tool for rapid COVID19 detection developed by Professor Matt Gibson and his colleagues is a further, clear example of the vital role universities will continue to play during this pandemic - and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Warwick researchers who have devoted themselves to using their skills and knowledge to this essential work.”

The research and development of the new tool has been supported by grants from the BBSRC (BB/M01116X/1 and BB/S506783/1), EPSRC (EP/R511808/1), the University of Warwick and Iceni.


15 June 2020


· To speak with Professor Gibson please contact Tom Frew, Senior Press and Media Relations Manager – University of Warwick, via:

· Iceni Diagnostics is a spin-out from the University of East Anglia and the John Innes Centre - Contact:

· Individuals or companies who are interested in helping to further develop, or scale-up and roll-out the new technology should contact Warwick Ventures in the first instance.

· To speak with Professor Gibson please contact Tom Frew, Senior Press and Media Relations Manager – University of Warwick, via:

· Iceni Diagnostics is a spin-out from the University of East Anglia and the John Innes Centre - Contact: