LONDON — U.K. aid is funding the effort to develop a rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19, which will be jointly manufactured in the United Kingdom and Senegal — a first for the African continent.
The developers told Devex they intend to sell the tests at cost, making them as affordable as possible, and that producing them in Senegal will make it cheaper and quicker to distribute them across Africa.“Ensuring access upfront to diagnostics is critical, especially for outbreak-prone epidemics,” said Joe Fitchett, medical director at Mologic, the U.K. company designing the kits. “By manufacturing in Africa there is an opportunity to ensure production is driven by demand and health need, rather than commercial return.”
While the pandemic has so far mostly affected the global north, there are widespread fears of the damage it could cause in lower-income countries.Current testing for COVID-19 requires laboratories, which are few and far between in low-income countries, and are not keeping up with demand even in better-resourced countries. The hope is that quick, easy-to-use diagnostic tests made in Senegal could ease the burden on local health systems if the outbreak on the continent worsens.
A prototype of the simple new testing system, which should give a diagnosis of COVID-19 within minutes as opposed to days, is said to be just weeks away from completion.