Irish company praised by EU for developing rapid coronavirus test

Hibergene Diagnostics secures EU approval to market 30-minute test across Europe

Seamus Gorman, chief executive of Irish company Hibergene Diagnostics. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography

Seamus Gorman, chief executive of Irish company Hibergene Diagnostics. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography

 

The European Commission has hailed the success of Irish company Hibergene Diagnostics in developing a 30-minute test to determine if people have coronavirus.

Hibergene tapped the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation fund for €930,000 to finance its research after its Chinese distributor approached it for help as the virus spread in Wuhan at the start of the year.

The Dublin company was among 18 coronavirus-related projects to win backing when the EU fund put out a special call for ideas to tackle the rapidly spreading pandemic in January. And it is the first to deliver results, with the Irish company securing EU approval on Wednesday to market its new test across Europe.

First batches of the test are now being shipped to Russia and other markets across Europe and the Middle East.

Challenge

Its test – HG nCoV19 – avoids the need for scarce reagents and can be completed in a fraction of the time required by the big centralised laboratories that have been responsible for testing until now.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “This is a great example of EU research in action. I am encouraged to see that these researchers have risen to the challenge, developed this new diagnostic system so fast, and delivered on one of the aims of our first emergency call.

“It’s crucial to diagnose coronavirus more quickly and more accurately, as it reduces the risk of further spread of the virus.”

Hibergene’s chief executive Seamus Gorman said the support of the EU had been “instrumental in delivering this project”.

Hibergene, which specialises in developing tests for a range of infectious diseases, headed a consortium of public and private organisations across four countries.

Emergency call

And it is continuing to work with the IRCCS Ospedale Policlinico San Martino in Genoa, Italy, Queens University in Belfast, and Medcaptain Medical Technologies in China, to widen the scope of the test – notably to detect the disease in people who are not yet displaying symptoms of the virus.

The EU made €48.2 million in funds available to 18 projects, involving 1,515 research teams, in its first emergency call in January. They included three projects that received €6.4 million between them for point-of-care testing – which Hibergene has succeeded in bringing to market.

The commission on Tuesday issued another special call for expressions of interest in coronavirus-related projects, backed with a budget of €122 million.

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