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Irish firm develops 15-minute Covid test that could be made available from pharmacies

Company is also providing scientists with raw materials for vaccine production


Assay Genie chief technical officer Sean Mac Fhearraigh (left) and CEO Colm Ryan

Assay Genie chief technical officer Sean Mac Fhearraigh (left) and CEO Colm Ryan

Assay Genie chief technical officer Sean Mac Fhearraigh (left) and CEO Colm Ryan

An Irish company is developing rapid Covid antigen tests which could become available in pharmacists for between €15 and €25 – up to seven times cheaper than some tests currently on the market.

Colm Ryan and Seán Mac Fhearraigh, of Assay Genie, a Dublin-based life science reagents firm, say they are currently very close to providing rapid antigen tests to the market.

These tests will take only 15 minutes to deliver results.

Mr Ryan told the Irish Independent: “Pharmacists are really interested in this test.

“If affordable rapid testing is rolled out, if everyone did a test and people put their hands up and said they have Covid-19 – and everyone with it isolates for 13 days – then technically the virus could be gone or down to zero or close to zero.”

The two former genetics students have made it clear they want to help combat the virus more than they want any monetary gain.

"It’s about getting the R number down to zero,” said Mr Ryan, who is CEO of Assay Genie.

“I believe it’s manageable to get Covid down to that level – it’s what we’re aiming for.”

Mr Ryan said he believes the tests will work at an accuracy rate of between a 92pc and 98pc.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) last week said that while antigen testing can provide quicker results, it is not appropriate for all settings.

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Spain last month rolled out a rapid antigen test with its manufacturer stating a 93pc accuracy.

The UK is set to release rapid antigen tests in Boots while France has also just introduced rapid Covid-19 tests at airports.

Similar tests are also available online but some are very expensive compared to those the Irish company plans to offer.

“What the tests do is essentially determine if someone has the virus within 15 minutes,” Mr Ryan said.

“It’s a rapid alternative to PCR testing and allows people to quickly determine if they are positive or negative.

“It’s a nasal swab. You could go to a pharmacy, or have the test sent to your house, get a swab, wait 15 minutes and you get your results.”

The company, which also trades under the name Elisa Genie, is also providing vaccine scientists in Ireland and across the globe with the raw materials for vaccine production.

“We launched a range of components, or reagents,” Mr Ryan said. “Essentially they are raw materials for vaccine development for scientists or immunologists.

“They are little parts of the virus.

"One of the key parts of the virus is called spike protein and we launched spike protein and antibodies to spike protein and they are used by vaccine development scientists in Ireland and across the world.

“What vaccine scientists need are little bits of the virus, so that humans will ultimately generate an antibody response and what they do is they get our little bits of the virus, such as spike protein – and they try to develop the vaccine in mice, hamsters and ultimately humans.

“We are providing the raw materials needed to generate an immune response for a vaccine.”

The company states it was “very early to the market with providing some of the virus proteins” and thus it hopes it will be a key part of a vaccine.

Mr Ryan believes a vaccine will be rolled out in January of next year and it will prove to be a “huge effort” for manufacturing.

But the rapid testing and vaccine will, he feels, move society one step closer to “coming back to some kind of normal reality.”

“I believe that we will get back to a type of normality late next year,” he added.

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