Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT), the sequencing company known for making small and portable nanopore-based sequencing platforms, announced a rollout of their new COVID-19 test called LamPORE. LamPORE is the first assay developed by Oxford Nanopore for diagnostic use.

Under an agreement with the U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care, an initial 450k LamPORE SARS-CoV-2 tests will be made available for use by a number of NHS testing laboratories. In addition to providing a large number of tests for existing labs, the program will help the U.K. to understand the different use cases for the technology, for example, the potential asymptomatic screening of frontline staff.

“We are honored to be playing a part in fighting COVID-19 in the U.K., and preparing the country for the winter virus season,” noted Gordon Sanghera, CEO of ONT. “LamPORE has the potential to deliver a highly effective and, crucially, accessible global testing solution,” he continued. “Not only for COVID-19 but for a range of other pathogens.”

LamPORE uses Oxford Nanopore’s sequencing technology to precisely identify amplified sections of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, after it has been targeted and amplified using RT-LAMP. This method of detection can differentiate between actual SARS-CoV2 presence and errors that can occur during amplification, which can be a source of “false positive” results.

LamPORE is designed to test both saliva and swab RNA samples, and yield results in under two hours from people who have symptoms or are asymptomatic. The test includes an internal control, allowing the user to identify that a test is invalid if the sample has not been gathered effectively, which can be a source of “false negative” results.

The LamPORE assay is performed on ONT’s devices, which are highly affordable and capable of performing thousands of tests per day, per device. Specifically, ONT’s desktop device (GridION) or palm-sized device (MinION Mk1C) can provide the capacity of processing up to 15,000 samples a day or 2,000 samples a day respectively.  It is well suited to use in a central laboratory for high-throughput sample processing, or near-community “pop-up labs.” The approach of having testing centers available in more locations combined with this speed supports rapid turnaround of results.

In addition to a test for SARS-CoV-2, Oxford Nanopore is currently developing LamPORE to test for multiple pathogens within a single sample, including influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2), influenza B, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2. This is intended to allow healthcare professionals to distinguish between these infections, better manage expected winter pressures on the NHS, and guide public health and clinical management of these diseases at a time of traditionally heightened pressure on health services. It also supports a goal of understanding the dynamics between these viruses in the U.K. population.

Because of its scalability, LamPORE may benefit both large-scale screening for broader populations, for example, screening of frontline workforces, at the point of congregation such as airports, in care homes and schools, etc. Furthermore, as LamPORE does not rely on the same components used in existing RT-PCR tests, it offers the potential to ease pressure on current supply chains and expand testing access.

“Oxford Nanopore’s new rapid LampPORE tests will benefit thousands of people with fast and accurate test results, removing uncertainty and breaking chains of transmission quickly and safely,” noted Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. “I am hugely grateful for the fantastic work Oxford Nanopore has done to push forward this important innovation in coronavirus testing.”

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