LabCentral, a shared laboratory space for biotech start-ups, has joined forces with BioLabs and E25Bio to establish Cambridge Consortium for Rapid Covid-19 Tests (CCRCT).

The new consortium aims to combine resources and validate fast, affordable diagnostic assays to facilitate SARS-CoV-2 screening for asymptomatic populations.

Apart from the founding members, the consortium is supported by Scismic  with recruitment of staff, Integra Biosciences with robotics and liquid handling equipment, and BioIT with customised data management system.

QIAGEN and HiMedia also supported the consortium with additional donations.

LabCentral intends to achieve Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification, which allows the consortium to test human samples, and help other firms develop new rapid tests.

LabCentral and BioLabs founder Johannes Fruehauf said: “We believe the key to controlling the novel Coronavirus pandemic, both locally and worldwide, hinges upon affordable, reliable and widespread testing. And large-scale testing utilizing specialized PCR equipment and highly trained personnel simply isn’t sustainable.

“Our goal with the CCRCT is to eliminate unacceptable wait times for both testing and results seen with PCR testing, and achieve test results in real-time, at home, at school or at a business venue, all at a very low price point.

“Once we are able to provide frequent testing to large clusters of the population, we can detect and isolate new positive cases before the virus spreads and allow a return to as close to normal operations as possible.”

CCRCT conducting a clinical trial Direct Antigen Rapid Test (DART)

Real time-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which is the current gold standard for the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection, is often time-consuming, involves expensive instrumentation and trained technicians.

The CCRCT is conducting a clinical trial to evaluate a self-administered, at-home test to detect SARS-CoV-2, dubbed Direct Antigen Rapid Test (DART).

DART is an immunoassay developed by E25Bio, for qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 viral particles or secreted protein in anterior nasal swabs or saliva samples and can deliver results within 15 minutes.

The three-month trial, which began in early September 2020, is enrolling volunteers from the LabCentral and BioLabs communities consisting more than 300 resident scientists and entrepreneurs.

E25Bio co-founder and CTO Irene Bosch said: “Slowing the spread of Covid-19 and getting back to normal requires a science-based, multi-pronged approach including new vaccines, therapies, but above all, more widespread testing, especially of asymptomatic populations.

“DART is designed to bring asymptomatic screening to the masses using a simple at-home test that is fast, accurate and affordable and gives people the confidence to “know” they are virus-free as they head back to work, school or other public places.”