Salient Bio launches robotics driven COVID-19 mass testing platform

UK diagnostics firm Salient Bio has announced the commercial roll out of its robotics driven COVID-19 mass testing platform. It is the company’s first commercial offering as part of a wider strategic aim to provide affordable, effective and easy-to-access pre-emptive diagnostic solutions for a broad range of medical conditions, which facilitate early intervention and improve overall health outcomes.

The London-based spinout has been founded by former team members of Imperial College’s London BioFoundry, which accelerates the commercialization of synthetic biology research and technology.

With continuous testing vital for high human contact industries such as food preparation, factory work construction and education, Salient Bio’s offering facilitates COVID-secure environments at a quicker and more cost effective rate than the closest approved competitor, with a same day results notification process and a very cost effective per unit price for businesses conducting mass testing.

The platform’s accuracy, fast delivery and cost effectiveness will be attractive to a range of sectors that require a safe environment for regular human contact; such as logistics, facilities management, education and manufacturing. The limited early rollout of the platform has already yielded partnerships with companies in the financial, sports and entertainment sectors, among others.  

With a recent Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) report showing that vacancies in construction, logistics and food processing have pushed job advertisements to the levels they were in early March, Salient Bio’s offering will be timely in ensuring this recovery can be delivered in COVID free working environments.  

Salient Bio’s platform facilitates rapid testing at a crucial juncture in the fight against COVID. Despite promising vaccine developments, there will still be a lag as countries cope with the logistical challenge of vaccinating enough of the population – whilst developing countries will have limited access to vaccines owing to developed countries reserving 82% of the world’s supply of the Pfizer vaccine through 2021 and almost all Moderna vaccine supplies for the rest of 2020. Furthermore, Duke University’s Global Health Institute highlights that enough cover for the global population may take until 2024 to be realized – a factor which accentuates the likely continuing need for quick, affordable and gold standard testing.

The platform is reagent agnostic, meaning that disruption in supply chains can be mitigated by a shift to different reagent suppliers without it calling for wholesale infrastructure change at Salient’s labs, therefore limiting disruption and costs. This is an important factor when considering the existing fragility in supply chains caused by COVID’s disruption to logistics and the demand for continuous delivery of supplies for repeat testing at workplaces.

As the pandemic hopefully recedes from early next year, Salient Bio’s modular diagnostics platform will be utilized for a wide range of other diagnostic processes. The company will have capacity to conduct rapid STI tests by the second half of 2021, along with a wide range of other non-seasonal bacterial and fungal infections. Alongside this core positioning, Salient Bio will look to develop an offering based on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, with a particular focus on microbiome diagnostics.

Without secure and regular testing, it is impossible for companies to operate at full productivity and employees to have peace of mind. That is why we’re delighted to have developed a solution that can give interaction and labor-based industries the ability to ensure a COVID safe environment efficiently and affordably. Beyond COVID-19, we are also excited at the prospect of using our platform to expand our suite of testing into STIs or other infectious diseases such as influenza. Not only will Salient Labs be equipped to cater for this with its robotic platform allowing for large scale testing, but it will also help usher in a post COVID world that will see great demand for proactive diagnosis by leveraging technologies such as NGS.”

Dr Marta Ciechonska, Co-founder, Salient Bio

Dr Miles Priestman, Co-founder of Salient Bio, commented: “With the rollout of vaccines likely to be staggered, rapid and accurate mass testing will play a vital role in the coming months in our immediate fight against COVID. Yet existing diagnostic labs often involve error prone manual processes – there is a huge opportunity to reinvent how they operate from the ground up. Using state of the art robotics and bespoke software development we hope to do just this, bringing significant cost and operational efficiency gains to help bring diagnostic labs fully into the 21st century.”

We’re delighted to have investor support and to have got off to such a good start with the contracts we have already won. Beyond COVID-19, Salient Bio’s innovative platform will have a crucial impact on how centralized labs can provide accessible diagnostics at mass-scale. The automation of diagnostics will likely signal a sea change in our attitudes towards regular testing as it makes it much more affordable in terms of time and money, effectively bringing it into the mainstream.”

Jack Priestman, Co-founder, Salient Bio

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