Derby firm paving the way for the future of lateral flow tests

Jim Campbell, founder of SureScreen Diagnostics, Amanda Solloway, MP for Derby North, Matt Hancock MP and David Campbell

A “culture change” prompted by the COVID pandemic is helping to pave the way for pioneering lateral flow tests designed to check for flu and diabetes – and Derby’s SureScreen Diagnostics is leading the way.

The company outlined the plans during a visit from Matt Hancock MP, who was health secretary during the fight against coronavirus and took a tour of SureScreen’s manufacturing facility last week.

SureScreen is based in Derby but opened the facility, which is based at the Sherwood Business Park, Annesley, Nottinghamshire, last year in order to meet the UK and global demand for COVID-19 lateral flow tests.

The LFTs are currently being supplied to the NHS and more than 60 countries worldwide, but Hancock, who was accompanied on his visit by Derby North MP Amanda Solloway, heard about how SureScreen Diagnostics is already exploring new opportunities for the post-COVID world.

These include kits which will enable people to test for flu, diabetes and other infectious diseases and viruses, giving them a near-instant diagnosis taking pressure off doctors and waiting times for laboratory results.

SureScreen’s LFTs were the first European tests to pass the validation process in the laboratory by Public Health England and Hancock was following in the footsteps of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited the site last year after the Government ordered 20 million tests for its national rapid testing programme.

Hancock also saw SureScreen’s newest production lines, which uses “spider” pick and place robots to speed up assembly of the kits.

He said: “We should be incredibly proud of the diagnostics industry that’s been built in the UK over the past two years, and SureScreen is a huge part of that.

“To develop tests and then develop manufacturing at such speed has been a massive endeavour and everyone SureScreen has stepped up to the plate.

“We have learned the importance of testing when we are ill and we can take that and learn from that for normal life now that COVID is endemic and not pandemic.

“There is a culture change that we should hold onto from COVID, that dictates that when we’re ill we should find out what’s wrong with us. If we do that then we’ll be a healthier nation.”

Founded 26 years ago, SureScreen develops and manufactures a whole range of diagnostic tests for the health service and other industries, including drugs tests, a unique alcohol testing devices for ambulances and supply of urine diagnostic tests to over half of the GPs surgeries in the country.

David Campbell, a director at SureScreen, said: “Lateral flow tests have been used for many years, but such was their importance during the COVID pandemic that the spotlight has really been shone on their many applications.

“Their high performance levels and the fact that people have become so used to using them offers us an opportunity to deploy LFTs in places that haven’t been possible in the past, and offer convenient ways to diagnose issues much earlier.

“Although we have been focused on COVID-19 in recent months, we already have a wide array of other tests ready to go, and have built a platform for manufacture of all kinds of different tests, which will help people to take control of their health and could save healthcare millions of pounds.”