The future of lateral flow assays (LFA), lessons learned from COVID-19 and green manufacturing
Updated: Apr 5
In this blog post we elaborate on the recent Nature publication about LFA’s and the future of this technology.
Lateral flow tests were adopted at an unprecedented scale during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling access to testing beyond healthcare settings. The acceptability and feasibility of large-scale testing with lateral flow tests (LFTs) for clinical and public health purposes has been demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. LFTs can detect analytes in a variety of samples, providing a rapid read-out, which allows self-testing and decentralized diagnosis. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time for governments around the world to embrace some ‘lateral thinking’ and dare to dream the future of decentralized health and affordable self-testing. Bioengineering and LFTs will play a key part in democratizing health, ensuring we honour the Sustainable Development Goals and “leave no one behind”, and strengthening resilience before the next pathogen strikes. LFA’s could play an important role in the future of diagnostics, including diseases of epidemic potential, the ‘silent pandemic’ of antimicrobial resistance, and other acute and chronic infections. Moreover, Bioengineering approaches, such as the use of nano- and quantum materials, nucleic-acid-based LFTs, CRISPR and machine learning, will improve the sensitivity, specificity, multiplexing and connectivity features of LFTs. This will make its use case even stronger.
LFTs are typically single use and disposable, producing non-biodegradable plastic waste, and sometimes also electronic waste. As an alternative to plastic components, card or biodegradable plastics have been implemented in commercially available tests. However, it is important that these materials retain the advantages of plastic, including robustness and protection of the assay strip, the ability to create the pressure points necessary for controlled flow and low-cost and scalable manufacturing methods. The environmental impact of LFTs that contain new materials and components needs to be considered.
Okos Diagnostics is working on a biodegradable universal LFA and is eager to make a positive sustainable impact.