UK diagnostic company Pictura Bio has been awarded funding by the UK government’s Ministry of Defence to accelerate the development of a portable prototype of an AI-powered testing platform that can detect infectious diseases in military personnel.

The funding was part of a competition run by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to address the need for rapid identification of pathogens that cause diseases such as influenza, MERS, Ebola and respiratory infections. Military personnel can be highly suspectable to infectious diseases due to close living quarters, frequent contact with novel pathogens, poor sanitation, and general strain of serving in the military.

Pictura Bio, whose rapid pathogen detection technology generated waves with its Covid-19 applications, is now developing IDRIS – a portable test that can be trained to recognise pathogens in throat and nose swab samples. Its machine learning software can be trained to identify an unlimited number of pathogens, the Oxford-based company says. 

With necessity of rapid diagnosis, which is both cost-effective and accurate, IDRIS’s future deployment in the field may be able to help contain disease outbreaks. IDRIS won’t be completed until February 2024 but, although it is still in a prototype phase, the device can provide results within five minutes with 99% accuracy.

“It is clear there is a significant gap in the market for instant, accurate and affordable point-of-care diagnostics for use in-field. By moving away from centralised lab testing, we can take necessary action much quicker to better control the spread of diseases and improve the health of military personnel,” said Pictura Bio’s CEO Alex Batchelor.

“Our disease testing platform is ideally suited for in-field testing on the front line because it is small, portable, requires little expertise to operate and provides a solution for all of the challenges posed by current diagnostics.”

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By GlobalData