Go back

Innovative Covid-19 diagnostics get £500m boost

UK government’s investment will fund trials of new testing tech

The government has announced a £500 million funding package to boost testing technology and capacity in Covid-19 test trials.

The money will support a new, community-wide trial in Salford to assess the benefits of repeat population testing. It will also fund the expansion of existing trials in Southampton and Hampshire that use saliva tests—rather than blood—as well as rapid 20-minute tests.

The aim is to then expand and roll out successful trials more widely.

The funding will also be used to extend capacity for existing polymerase chain reaction testing across the country before winter.

“We need to use every new innovation at our disposal to expand the use of testing, and build the mass testing capability that can help suppress the virus and enable more of the things that make life worth living,” said health secretary Matt Hancock.

“We are backing innovative new tests that are fast, accurate and easier to use and will maximise the impact and scale of testing, helping us to get back to a more normal way of life…we must innovate our way out of this crisis.”

Joshua Moon, a research fellow in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex Business School, said that while “a rapid test is a useful thing to have, it needs to be supported by a whole system of policies and strategies around contact tracing, case and contact isolation, support for those self-isolating, and evaluation of the system itself to ensure better functioning as the pandemic continues”.

“Having a rapid test is useless if positive cases can’t or won’t isolate because support and enforcement is absent or if contacts can’t be identified because the tracing system is overwhelmed,” Moon added.