Scottish biotech firm Omega Diagnostics is within weeks of ramping up production on a laboratory test to identify those who have built up immunity to Covid-19 following a newly-announced agreement with Bedfordshire-based Mologic.

Colin King, chief executive of Omega Diagnostics, said the company is also looking at ways to expand capacity at its facility in Alva to produce more than 100,000 tests per week that can be used at home to detect Covid-19 antibodies. These are being developed as part of the UK Rapid Test Consortium (RTC) announced earlier this month.

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Under the agreement with Mologic, Omega has produced initial batches of Mologic’s ELISA lab test which are being sent this week to NHS Scotland and Public Health England for formal validation. These are being made at Omega’s facility in Littleport, Cambridgeshire.

Once validated, Omega and Mologic will enter into a longer-term supply agreement with Omega producing more than 1.3 million tests per month.

Mr King said evaluation samples were sent to NHS Scotland yesterday, with those to Public Health England due to be shipped within the next day or so. Results from NHS Scotland are expected by the middle of next week.

Although the aim is to produce these tests for use in the first instance in the UK, Mr King said there has already been a “reasonable amount of data” from other sources that would allow the lab testing kits to be sold to countries abroad.

This includes independent validation by the Liverpool 
School of Tropical Medicine and that from St George’s, University of London.

He added that production of Mologic’s laboratory test is expected to reach its targeted peak of 46,000 units per day “within a few weeks.” This is not expected to have “too much” impact on Omega’s food intolerance tests, which are also made at the Littleport facility.

“This has all been done at a very fast pace,” Mr King said.

“About two or three weeks ago I was in discussions with Mologic on another matter, and mentioned that we have ELISA production capacity. Everything else had flowed from there.”

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ELISA is the industry acronym for Enzyme Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay, one of the most tested and proven laboratory technologies used by the global diagnostics industry.

Shares in AIM-listed Omega Diagnostics rose by more than 20% yesterday on the news, building further on substantial gains after the UK RTC partnership was announced on April 9.

House broker finnCap noted that the Mologic test is further advanced than the home-based kit under development by the UK RTC: “It is quite possible that it could be available in the next couple of weeks, pending PHE (Public Health England) clearance.”

Its researchers estimate this could equate to between £15m and £30m of additional revenues for Omega, representing “significant upside potential”, depending on the confirmation of orders.

Mr King said Omega currently has capacity for a weekly run of up 100,000 of the home tests at its facility in Alva, the site of its UK RTC production. However, the company is looking at ways in which that can be scaled up.

The RTC consortium is led by Abingdon Health and includes Oxford University, BBI Solutions and CIGA Healthcare. It forms part of the Government’s five pillar national testing strategy for Covid-19.

Mr King said the consortium will “get a feel” within the next few weeks as to how the partners are progressing towards so-called design freeze, the point when development is halted and final specifications are shared with each member of the partnership to allow manufacturing to begin.

“We are working hard to try and find a way through this,” he added. “Having both a home test and a laboratory test will be very helpful, if we can bring this to pass.”