A Senegalese innovation lab is helping the UK develop a 10-minute coronavirus test kit

At alert.
At alert.
Image: Reuters/Francis Kokoroko
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

There might soon be a much faster way to diagnose Covid-19—thanks, in part, to a specialized facility in Dakar, Senegal.

As part of its £46 million ($60 million) coronavirus prevention and research funding package, the UK government has awarded a £1 million grant to Mologic, a British biotech firm, to develop “point of need” test kits that can diagnose Covid-19 in 10 minutes. In partnership with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, manufacturing of the test kits will happen at DiaTropix, a new custom-built facility for epidemics-related innovation, in Dakar, Senegal. Manufacturing of the test kits, expected to be a handheld device, is has been slated for June.

Mologic, which has previously created similar test kits for Ebola, measles and yellow fever, will have have prototypes of its coronavirus test kit will be validated by specialists in the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the University of London, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the University of Malaya, Malaysia and  Fiocruz in Brazil.

If successfully developed and validated, a much faster way to test and diagnose Covid-19 could prove critical as the virus continues to spread globally with confirmed cases now surpassing 120,000. The current, long-winded process for testing for coronavirus infections involve a throat swab, transporting samples to laboratories with test kits and a wait for results that can last up to 24 hours.

An inability to test quickly or at all could worsen the spread of the outbreak in the meantime. As Politico reports,  testing may soon be hobbled in the United States by a shortage of lab materials.

For their part, even though African countries have proactively set up testing capabilities, the availability of a more efficient test kits will prove instrumental as the number of confirmed cases starts to spike. Egypt and Algeria are the continent’s most affected nations so far, accounting for 80 of the continent’s 107 confirmed cases. Of the 12 African countries with confirmed cases, DR Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso have all confirmed index cases this week alone.

Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech and innovation in your inbox