By Kristy Dorsey

Omega Diagnostics has underlined the strength of its business prospects beyond Covid testing kits after posting a £1.8 million loss for the six months to the end of September.

The increase in its pre-tax deficit from £331,000 in the same period a year earlier had been anticipated, with the pandemic hitting sales within the food intolerance business. Revenues from this division fell by 38%, with reductions in most geographic regions but “particularly” in North America and Europe.

However, Omega noted that food intolerance sales are now recovering, with double-digit growth in October and November. Meanwhile, its Visitect CD4 test for the management of patients with HIV is on course for deployment through the Clinton Health Access Initiative, having received WHO prequalification.

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These developments, together with the company’s widely-publicised involvement in the development of tests to detect Covid-19, are expected to lead to a “significantly improved” performance in the second half of the year.

Asked about the shift in tone to better highlight the food intolerance and CD4 lines of business, chief executive Colin King said: “What we are trying to get across today is that we are not just a company that is solely focused on Covid.”

News on its involvement in various Covid test development partnerships has driven Omega’s share price throughout the year. The company is a member of the UK Rapid Test Consortium (UK-RTC), and has also teamed up with Bedfordshire-based Mologic.

Headcount at its headquarters in Alva has now reached 122 people, up from 60 in May, with construction on a £1m manufacturing expansion due to complete by the end of this year. That will take capacity from 500,000 to two million tests per week by April, with a further 70 to 80 people expected to be hired in the coming months.

READ MORE: Omega adds staff at its Alva HQ as Covid test production gears up

That will allow Omega to produce a quarter of the first one million tests ordered earlier this year by the UK Government, and at least that percentage amount from total orders placed over the term of the Government supply agreement.

Mr King said Omega is anticipating most of the demand in the first part of 2021 will be for rapid antigen tests, which confirm whether a person is currently infected. That is expected to shift in favour of antibody testing – which detects if a person has previously had the disease, and is producing natural defences against it – as the year progresses.

The latter is expected to be used alongside any vaccines that are rolled out, as health experts will want to track the longevity of protection provided by an inoculation.

“We have set up our [production] capacity to cover both bases, whether that demand is for antigen or antibody tests,” Mr King said.

Shares in AIM-listed Omega rose 3p yesterday to 49.5p.