Sense Biodetection said it expected Covid-19 to be around for the ‘long-term’ and could be managed using its tests

A British start-up behind what looks set to be the world’s most accurate rapid Covid-19 test has raised $50m (£35.7m) in fresh cash as it prepares to help cope with a third wave of the virus.

Cambridge-based Sense Biodetection said it had raised the cash to accelerate the launch of its tests, which is expected to come before the autumn.

The disposable tests claim to combine the ease of the rapid lateral flow tests, which give Covid-19 test results within minutes, with the accuracy of the PCR tests, which are sent away to labs for verification.

Sense boss Harry Lamble said the company had a “six-year head start on others that have jumped on a Covid bandwagon”.

It comes amid concerns over the accuracy of lateral flow tests, with The Guardian last week publishing leaked emails between officials which suggested there had been a high rate of false positives.

Downing Street later responded by saying the tests had been “rigorously evaluated, and we believe that they are both accurate and incredibly useful in terms of being able to spot asymptomatic cases of the virus”. However, Sense expects its tests to be equal to PCR tests, which are used to confirm positive cases.

“We’re in the final phases of scaling up, so investing in production lines. We’re looking to really get the tests into people’s hands rather than just to conclude a research and development programme.”

Investor Michael Anstey, from Cambridge Innovation Capital, said if there was another wave coming after the summer then “Sense will be ready”.

“We think Covid will sadly be with us for the long-term. This is something that will help us to live with Covid indefinitely. The high-volume testing is great for the short-term, but they’re not appropriate for long-term management of Covid, whereas Sense’s product is.”

The latest funding round comes around a year and a half after Sense last raised cash, at the time having said it was developing DIY flu tests – something it said could curb outbreaks and save the NHS billions.

Mr Anstey said he believed that Sense “could be one of the UK’s largest businesses”, pointing to the size of its peers, such as Cepheid, which was taken over for $4bn in 2016.

“That’s the trajectory we’re on.”


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