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DnaNudge CEO and Co-Founder Regius Professor Chris Toumazou Awarded Royal Academy of Engineering Special Award for Pandemic Service

Professor Toumazou FRS, FREng, FMedSci honoured for exceptional engineering innovation for his role in the conception and development of the COVID Nudge rapid, lab-free test – now in UK NHS roll-out

DnaNudge CEO and co-founder Regius Professor Chris Toumazou FRS, FREng, FMedSci has been named as a winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Special Award for Pandemic Service, in recognition of his and his team’s major role in the development of the COVID Nudge rapid, lab-free RT-PCR test – delivering accurate sample-to-result in just over an hour without the need for a laboratory.  Earlier this month, the UK government announced an order for 5.8 million rapid COVID Nudge test kits, to be rolled out in NHS hospitals across the UK from September in urgent patient care and elective surgery settings, plus further deployments in out-of-hospital locations.

The Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Special Awards for Pandemic Service honour 19 key individuals and teams of engineers for exceptional engineering achievements in tackling COVID-19 throughout the UK, spanning the whole field of engineering from ventilators and vaccines to hospital building and infection tracking. The awards – which are overseen by the Academy’s Awards Committee – have been made to teams, organisations, individuals, collaborations and projects across all technical specialities, disciplines and career stages within the UK engineering community who have contributed to addressing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specially commissioned silver medals will be presented to all 19 winners later this year.

Professor Toumazou and the DnaNudge team, together with TTP in Cambridge, began adapting the COVID Nudge test from DnaNudge’s ground-breaking in-store DNA testing service at the start of the pandemic, as the need for increased testing capacity and rapid testing solutions became clear. COVID Nudge is a rapid, accurate, portable, out-of-laboratory, sample-to-answer RT-PCR test that delivers results on the spot, at the point of need and in just over an hour. This transformative, single-chip multiplex test enables a comparison of a sample against both the WHO and CDC assays, and could also test for FluA, FluB and RSV – a crucial capability for clinicians ahead of the winter flu season. In addition, the chip includes a control assay for human RNA, which eliminates “false negative” results by testing for inadequate swabbing.

Working with DHSC, and with the authorisation of the MHRA, DnaNudge validated its adapted technology in April and began an initial deployment of the COVID Nudge test in eight London hospitals – including cancer wards, A&E and maternity departments at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, Charing Cross Hospital, West Middlesex University Hospital, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Royal Hospital Chelsea (home of the Chelsea Pensioners), Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Maternity Hospital, the Renal Transplant Centre at Hammersmith Hospital and the Tower Hamlets Centre for Mental Health at Mile End Hospital.  The test, which is now being rolled out nationally, is authorised for clinical use by the MHRA and has obtained a CE mark. An average sensitivity of the COVID Nudge test – compared against numerous NHS lab-based tests – is around 95% and specificity around 100%. A paper has been accepted for publication by a peer-reviewed journal and will be published shortly, and a pre-print is publicly available.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says: “The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest public health crisis of our time and has presented society with multiple challenges. Engineering expertise and innovation has been central to the global fight to save lives and protect livelihoods.

“I am also incredibly proud of engineers everywhere who have worked round the clock to maintain essential services, critical supply chains and infrastructure in unprecedented circumstances, using their training and skills to find innovative solutions to a host of problems and to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our daily lives.”

Professor Raffaella Ocone OBE FREng FRSE, Chair of the Academy’s Awards Committee, says: “Engineering skills—including innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration—have proved to be of vital importance during the current pandemic. We were delighted that the breadth of nominations for these awards reflected so much of the extraordinary work engineers have been doing.

“While I am delighted that we are able to recognise some of these outstanding achievements with these awards I am mindful that the important work of the vast majority of engineers will remain largely outside the public’s consciousness. They are all deserving of our thanks and admiration for their continuing positive contribution to society.”

Commenting on the award, Professor Chris Toumazou FRS, FREng, FMedSci, CEO and co-founder of DnaNudge and founder of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London said: “In April, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to peak, the UK government issued an urgent call to the most innovative minds in academia and industry to help increase the country’s testing capacity. I am delighted that the DnaNudge team, together with The Technology Partnership (TTP) in Cambridge, was able to answer that call. I couldn’t be prouder of the part that DnaNudge and our technology has played in delivering rapid testing for the NHS and for the country. I am deeply honoured and grateful to the Royal Academy of Engineering for this special and meaningful award.”

About Professor Chris Toumazou

Professor Chris Toumazou is a multi-award-winning inventor, innovator and tech entrepreneur with over 80 granted patents in the field of consumer healthcare and microchip technology. He is London’s first Regius (Royal) Professor of Engineering and founder of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London.

Professor Christofer Toumazou © Imperial College London/PA

About DnaNudge

DnaNudge is the world’s first service to use consumers’ own DNA plus lifestyle to nudge us towards healthier choices each time we shop.

Following a quick and simple DNA test at DnaNudge’s flagship store in London’s Covent Garden, users can start using their wrist-worn DnaBand to scan product barcodes and discover whether a food product is “red” or “green” for them.  If the product is indicated as “green”, it’s good to go.  If the product is “red”, the DnaNudge App will display a range of personalised recommended alternatives generated by DnaNudge’s science-led analytics based on world-class research.  The DnaBand also incorporates a physical inactivity monitor, enabling the App to adapt its recommended product choices based on inactivity levels, helping to keep DNA healthy. With NudgeMatch, users can even tap DnaBands with friends and see which DNA traits they have in common.

Everyday, small product swaps can lead to big, positive changes to health over the long term. No more impossible diets or best intentions – just realistic, actionable, personal DNA and lifestyle-based recommendations when shopping.

Click below to read the 2020 September edition of Europe Diplomatic Magazine

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