UK Startup LEX Diagnostics Developing Ultra-Fast Low-Cost PCR for Infectious Disease Dx

PHOENIX – UK-based LEX Diagnostics is working on an ultra-fast point-of-care real-time PCR platform for infectious disease diagnostics that can deliver results within five minutes at a price point similar to current antigen tests.

The company, a spinoff from UK technology development firm TTP Group, was founded in early 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and is based in the Melbourn Science Park, a few miles south of Cambridge. Last year, GenMark Diagnostics invested an undisclosed amount in the firm through a definite option agreement.

At the Association for Molecular Pathology annual meeting here on Wednesday, Andrew Anyakwo, head of reagent development at LEX — which stands for “low energy extreme” — outlined the firm’s technology and laid out its vision for a fast, low-cost, high-accuracy diagnostic. He presented during a workshop sponsored by LGC Biosearch Technologies, LEX’s development partner for reagents.

According to Anyakwo, current POC testing devices on the market have several shortcomings. For example, many are not that user friendly, requiring various steps that can result in mistakes. LEX, on the other hand, has developed a cartridge that only requires users to add the sample, which helps avoid human error.

Secondly, existing tests, such as COVID-19 antigen tests, may be low cost but are not extremely sensitive, he said. Alternatively, they may have PCR sensitivity but at a significant cost. “We want accuracy at low cost,” he said, and LEX’s first test will have a limit of detection comparable to conventional real-time PCR.

Lastly, although existing POC PCR tests can already deliver results within 30 minutes or so, greater speed would still be an advantage. A primary care visit in the UK, for example, only lasts 10 minutes, he said.

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