DURHAM School has been trialling a ground-breaking innovation that can test vast roomfuls of air for the virus and is capable of real-time identification of airborne pathogens.

Dr Arnab Basu, the founder of the local tech company Kromek Group plc, has created an airborne Covid detection system which aims to identify early signs of the virus and prevent the spread.

Dr Basu said, “We have been working on a wide spectrum pathogen detection system and together with the US Department of Defence, particularly with DARPA one of their innovation agencies, we are focused on being an early warning system against the bioterrorism.”

The team at Kromek had been working on a device which could detect bacteria and virus in the air back in 2018 and once the pandemic hit, they focused their attention on being able to identify Covid. In 2020, the project received UK Government funding which has helped the team get to where they are today.

Dr Basu said, “This particular system is fully automatic and autonomously run for the detection of Covid in the air. It samples a very large volume of air but a very specialised air collections system is built into it, which collects hundreds of litres of air per minute.

“It filters out all the particles that we’re not interested in and then that sample is taken through a series of biochemical processors using very sophisticated robotics and the answer is given whether there is covid in that sample or not.

“All of that happens on a continuous basis for 24 hours nobody needs to intervene. This machine could sit in a corner of a room sampling air, doing the full analysis all by itself without any human intervention.”

The total cost for developing the DNA sequencing technology in the device is around £14 million but the cost of the device will be £20,000.

The device has already proved to be a success in Teesside International Airport and Dr Basu hopes that more venues will benefit from the device.

Mr Kieran McLaughlin, Principal of the Durham Cathedral Schools Foundation, said: “Durham School are delighted to be one of the first institutions to trial the Covid detection device designed by Dr Basu and his team at Kromek.

"Over the last few months, our pupils have shown great maturity by taking two lateral flow tests every week and we are proud of their efforts to keep our community safe.

"Kromek’s detection device would make the process of identifying Covid in schools easier and it would remove the responsibility from the pupil. Thank you to Dr Basu and his team for inviting Durham School to take part in the trial; we are excited to see how the project develops.”


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