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Salient Bio co-founder discusses mass testing platform and future plans

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Salient Bio are releasing a mass testing platform for COVID-19

Jack Priestman, co-founder of Salient Bio, has spoken about the roll out of the firm’s robotics driven COVID-19 mass testing platform and the technology’s wider potential.

The London-based spin-out was founded by former team members of Imperial College London‘s BioFoundry, which accelerates the commercialisation of synthetic biology research and technology.

Through its robotics driven modular diagnostics platform, Salient Bio aims to provide affordable, effective and easy-to-access pre-emptive diagnostic services for a range of medical conditions. The COVID-19 mass testing platform is the company’s first commercial offering as part of its wider strategic aim.

The limited early roll out of the platform has already yielded partnerships with companies in the financial, sports and entertainment sectors

Priestman said: “Automation really does deliver a hell of a lot of value in diagnostics. You unlock yourself from these punitively expensive supply chains, and you open yourself up to tapping into supply chains specifically for reagents for RNA extraction, which are literally a 10th of the cost.

“So, it allows you not only to operate at a much higher scale, and therefore speed when you are talking about mass diagnostics, but also at a much lower cost, which is why we’re able to offer services at 50% of the market price in a lot of cases. And that has allowed us to roll out our proposition for COVID testing with two or three very meaningful USPs.

Priestman believes that the technology Salient provides also relieves strain on the NHS.

“One of the key pieces of software that we’ve delivered for the NHS, when we were working in partnership with them, was around data integration.

“People like to talk about the really cool stuff like the robots but what the NHS really valued was the small, non-glamorous, but incredibly crucial productivity gains that you deliver for the user.

“It is that sort of automation, pieces of software that really deliver the most value for the process. That’s one example of how you can bring the lab into the 21st century; you can actually just create an automated digital reporting solution.”

Salient Bio intends to utilise its modular diagnostics platform for other diagnostic processes. The company will have capacity to conduct rapid STI tests by the second half of 2021, along with a range of other non-seasonal bacterial and fungal infections.

The company will also look to develop an offering based on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, with a particular focus on microbiome diagnostics.

Priestman added: “We probably as a business want to have some sort of generic mass market, commoditized diagnostic lab, which would just be generating revenue and keeping relationships with clients.

“An STI represents a non-seasonal, very large market and is an obvious area for us to go into.

“But I think fundamentally, where do we start building IP? And where do we start building a niche for ourselves? I think it’s looking like it will be in the NGS field and around sequencing and microbiomes.”

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