British company to launch world’s first affordable saliva test for COVID-19 crisis

Vatic, a newly established UK-born healthtech company, is launching the world’s first on-the-spot-result saliva test to identify current COVID-19 infections and, uniquely, who is infectious and can pass on the virus.


Why the technology is different and an advance


  • Works differently – unlike other lateral flow tests it looks for the ‘spike’ on the virus so is a true measure of infectivity
  • Non-invasive – first test specifically developed to use saliva rather than nasopharyngeal or nasal swabs
  • Accurate – no false positives have been detected in testing and far fewer cases of infection have been missed*. Detects 50,000-200,000 viral copies/ml compared with other lateral flow tests which is at least 2-3 times better detection capability than other lateral flow tests released thus far, and not far from gold standard lab capabilities (10,000 viral copies/ml), but which are unfit for mass screening.
  • Convenient: Deployable as a frontline screening tool – can detect infection in symptom-free people – not only on hospital patients – and significantly identifies infectious people early
  • Nearly instant results – under 15 minutes, no need for a lab or additional equipment
  • Affordable – cost-effective solution for anywhere that needs immediate screening results for COVID-19 infectiousness, whether in aviation, events or workplace settings. It is entirely developed and manufactured in the UK

The KnowNow COVID-19 test is unique in that it is easy-to-do via a simple salivary swab and is designed to work on the spot – for example at an airport or queue for a live event. It provides an accurate result in under 15 minutes combined with accessible pricing per test based on application. The test will be ‘CE Marked’ (for safety assurance) and available to buy in January.

Although built on the widely known lateral flow platform, Vatic says this will be the first commercial test of its kind in the world. Its technology identifies COVID-positive people before they become infectious – based on a small saliva sample. Vatic’s founders believe this will help to reopen society such as public transport and sporting, cultural and festival events while keeping people safe.

The company’s technology – founded by a partnership of UK and Danish scientists – works as a ‘trapdoor’ using the COVID-19 virus’ own mechanism of cell entry as a means of generating signal. Harmless viral matter/ remnant signals will not be detected so providing a more robust and timelier indicator. Virtually every other antigen test works by detecting the nucleocapsid protein in the centre of the virus (not a true measure of infectivity and not as specific an identifier).

The KnowNow COVID-19 test is an accurate identifier of infectiousness by detecting the spike protein on the surface of the virus. It detects the virus by mimicking the properties of a human cell, ‘tricking’ the virus into reacting with it, and thereby creating a signal visible to the naked eye. KnowNow tests don’t require access to power or other equipment to work. They can be used anywhere to get results fast.


How it works:


  • A swab is used to collect saliva from inside of the user’s cheek and pooled saliva under the tongue
  • The saliva from the swab is mixed with an ‘extraction buffer’ in a tube
  • Drops of the resulting solution are released on to the lateral flow device in the same way as a pregnancy test
  • Paired with an app, the technology will provide documented proof of a negative result or safe non-infectious status. The user simply scans their test result and the app will log whether the user is infectious or not and the time of test. (Note Vatic is ‘app agnostic’). This documentation could then allow access to events and travel


Vatic CEO and co-founder, Alex Sheppard, said, “We are radically rethinking how people access screening for COVID-19. To re-open society and make communities safer we need testing that is rapid, on the spot and scalable. We can provide a safe robust test with results in minutes.”

Alex added, “Regular, accessible COVID-19 infectivity screening is needed for us to do many of the things we are currently missing out on. For example, if we know we are not infectious then we can attend cultural events, see our family, go to work or go on holiday, without fear that we will do harm to those around us.

“Our much-loved social institutions and services can reopen safely such as schools, stadiums, airports, seaports, train stations and pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. We are already working under commercial confidentiality with an international airport and two global entertainment companies. The test is also easy to do – so avoiding an unpleasant back of throat swab, which is challenging to get a reliable sample from, or prolonged wait for a lab test.”

Vatic Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Dr Mona Kab Omir, said, “The more we can encourage and enable regular testing across the population – giving people clarity about whether they are infected (and, critically, infectious), the quicker our lives will start to look more ‘normal’. Where a typical antigen test identifies the presence of harmless viral matter, our test identifies the infectiousness of the people who are tested. Significantly, the detection methodology underpinning the test is immune to potential mutation of the virus in the future, unlike tests based on antibodies.”

Vatic Medical Adviser, Dr Jack Kreindler, said, “We believe this technology will prove to have the scientific efficacy, medical practicality and affordability to help restore life to near-normal, alongside the vaccines, to overcome what is the greatest public health, and economic health crises in living memory. Our test technology was in development well before COVID-19 yet 2020 has demonstrated just how flexible the technology is and potentially its ability to put accurate diagnostics into the very hands of everyone.

Vatic is backed by key investors including Hoxton Ventures and LocalGlobe. Rob Kniaz, partner at Hoxton Ventures, said, “We think this technology has the potential to be the ‘holy grail’ of COVID testing based on the price and performance of the product. No other tests offer this powerful combination to make testing an affordable daily option for front-line workers, travellers and many more.”

Julia Hawkins, partner at LocalGlobe, said, “The team at Vatic have worked incredibly hard to get KnowNow technology to the stage where it’s ready to release to market. Their combined technology and science expertise has created a product which can not only roll out and support the economy to get back to normal, but one that can be adapted in the future for on-the-spot predictive screening of other acute diseases. It’s an exciting breakthrough.”