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Public Health England Too Slow to Scale Testing

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By David Saunders | UPDATED: 11:28, 16 April 2020

The UK Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, this week admitted that Public Health England did not increase testing fast enough to stem the spread of Coronavirus. While Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week called on the biotech industry to come up with a solution to the antibody testing kits that have so far been exposed as unreliable after the Government reportedly purchased millions of them.

This comes as one of the Government’s top advisers on epidemiology, Professor Neil Ferguson, this month said: “The only exit strategy from this long-term is vaccination or some other kind of innovative technology.” While an effective – widely available – vaccine looks distant, with some experts predicting it will likely take up to a year to be developed, innovative technology looks like the most viable option for dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic; both in the short and long-term.

Some firms, however, are frustrated with the Government and public figures, who are offering an apparent lack of action in taking up potential solutions to problems in testing and treatment.

The Telegraph reported that several private companies have been refused access to blood samples by Public Health England which may be vital in proving the effectiveness of antibody tests.

ANCON Medical are one other such company left frustrated by a lack of communication from public figures about their innovative technology. Their Nanoparticle Biomarker Tagging (NBT) device works with AI and machine learning to identify the breath biomarker profile of a COVID-19 positive patient; allowing the device to diagnose the presence of the virus in as little as 10 minutes without the need to send samples to labs, as is currently the case. It can also provide rapid response screening and diagnosis technique for future outbreaks.

Wesley Baker, CEO of ANCON Medical, comments:

“We are incredibly disappointed and frustrated with the lack of any response or acknowledgement from the Department of Health or Public Health England thus far. We have made multiple attempts to highlight the potential our technology has in providing effective screening and diagnosis at a rapid rate and on a large scale, with no response.

At ANCON if we had access for our NBT device to ICU facilities dealing with COVID-19 patients for between one to four weeks to be able to build a COVID-19 chemical breath profile, we could now have been discussing the mass screening of population. In 24 weeks from date of order of machines, we could potentially be up to 1.9 million tests a week just with 377 devices.

The biggest frustration is we are only asking for access to an NHS facility to test for COVID-19, if we can build the chemical profile – which we are very confident that we can – then the government has the answer to all its testing issues very quickly, and also has a system they can mass use in the future as well.

We are over a month now since we began reaching out to Government officials, department s and PHE to offer our technology to help the NHS test and screen people for coronavirus more quickly and effectively.

The Government should be looking at multiple options for testing and the best way to get the whole country screened. The World Health Organisation have been saying for months to “test, test, test”. Even before the lockdown was implemented, we could have been undergoing drive through tests.”