COVID-19 testing firm launches landmark Madrid trials to reopen universities

A Manchester company at the forefront of COVID-19 testing has launched a landmark trial with Madrid’s universities as the city’s major educational centres re-start face-to-face lessons.

Medusa 19, the developer of the Rapid Saliva Protein Test (RSPT), has begun a pilot which was endorsed by Madrid’s vice president, Ignacio Aguado, who attended the launch of the trials at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.

Once completed, the vice president has announced his intention to roll out the Medusa 19 RSPT for mass testing widely across the city, including on public transport links.

The pilot will see up to 1,500 students and staff members tested over a period of three weeks.

As part of the trial, the Medusa 19 test, which could indicate current or previous infection through antibodies created in saliva, will be compared with results from blood antibody, PCR and antigen tests.

The pilot aims to prove that restrictions currently being placed on students can be reduced and that a return to full time education can be safely enabled by implementing a robust system of mass testing.

A successful pilot in Madrid would also give hope to UK students, who have struggled with infection rates in recent weeks.

Oxford University reported that the number of weekly COVID-19 cases had more than tripled in the week to October 16, while nearly 1,000 students at Durham University tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The Medusa 19 RSPT, launched in September 2020, is a non-invasive test for IgM and IgG antibodies in a saliva sample.

Results are provided on the spot in 10 minutes, removing the need for laboratory testing.

As these antibodies are identified earlier in saliva than blood, the RSPT can indicate an immune response to current or recent infection and can be taken in any location under medical supervision.

In clinical trials, undertaken in Madrid earlier this year, the test demonstrated 96% sensitivity, relative specificity of 92% and 94% accuracy in patients with the absence of specific symptoms and who did not know they had an active SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The firm aims to use its test to rebuild confidence in the global economy, with a system of mass testing ensuring that workplaces and schools and universities can remain open for business.

It currently has two million tests in stock, with capacity to scale manufacturing to 50 million units a month in the next six to eight weeks.

Christian Stephenson, chief development officer at Medusa 19, said: “This pilot is a huge first step to ensure that students across the world can safely return to full time education, as well as highlighting the benefits that saliva-based tests can also offer to businesses.

“With its speed of results, the Medusa 19 RSPT could indicate immune response at a much earlier stage than blood antibody tests, ensuring that individuals can quickly follow government guidelines and contain the virus.”

He added: “With the capacity to scale up to 50 million units a month, the RSPT test can also play a crucial role as a triage test supporting the UK and Spanish Governments to remove the bottleneck in PCR testing capacity.

“It also provides a result in minutes without the normal 24/48 hour delay with PCR results. A mass testing regime would enable businesses and universities to accurately filter those that require a PCR test with those that do not.”

Ignacio Aguado said: “This test could be a turning point in the detection of COVID-19.

“It may be the first self-diagnosis test that can be used at home and that would be revolutionary. I truly hope this pilot test is successful.
“If greenlighted, which I hope it will be soon, it will bolster the catalogue of tests available to public administrations.”

Medusa19 was established by Richard Hughes and Mahmud Kamani, who were both founder shareholders of Manchester-based online fashion retailer, with the objective of building a global ‘Business to Consumer’ medical diagnostics business.

Richard was the founder of Crawford Healthcare and Zeus Capital.