Invest in technology to prevent future pandemic, Kromek urges UK government

County Durham company Kromek has urged the government to invest in technology to prevent a future pandemic.

The AIM-listed company, based in Sedgefield, develops radiation detection and biosensing technology solutions for the medical, security screening and nuclear industries, with a second base in the United States.

As part of its goals of improving quality of life through detection technology, screening technology in hospitals and airports, as well as portable “dirty bomb” detectors at the US Department of Defense. During the pandemic it has trialled new products, including an airborne Covid-19 detection system, which has been trialled at Teesside International Airport as well as a school in the North East.

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Now the company has released a document – Future Biological Threats and Mitigation – authored by CEO Dr Arnab Basu and chemical and biological weapons expert Colonel Hamish of Bretton-Gordon calling on government policy makers to treat the Covid-19 pandemic as a wake-up call. call, rather than a one-time event.

He suggests that emerging bio-skills among rogue states and terrorist groups could lead to engineered viruses becoming a feature of future warfare, alongside the continued risk of existing animal pathogens mutating, resulting in human-to-human transmission.

Dr Basu said: “The international community must be aware of the very real threat that Covid-19 is not unique. There is every chance that another pathogen will occur naturally, alongside the likelihood that biological warfare, in the form of genetically engineered viruses, could be used in the near future. The impact on human life and the global economy of this pandemic should act as a call to action.

The report, which has been sent to national and local decision-makers, makes a number of recommendations, including that global and national governance and regulations need to be reviewed, as well as calls for an overhaul of the Biological Weapons Convention and toxins of 1975, the disarmament treaty banning biological weapons weapons.

Funded by US and UK government agencies, Kromek spent three years developing the technology that would build a national or global early warning system to mitigate the emergence of a new airborne disease.

The bench-top sized machine filters the air and captures all biological particles whose DNA is sequenced in situ to monitor both their emergence and prevalence.

Used in urban centers, high traffic areas and sensitive locations such as airports or hospitals, the machine enables early detection of localized outbreaks, which can be identified and contained.

The systems are designed to be networked in large numbers, to provide near real-time mapping of pathogens enabling an early warning system for emerging biological threats.

In his foreword to the document, former Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “We need to upgrade our biological protection from retrospective ‘test and trace’ systems to stand-alone DNA sequencing in time. that can give our national and local agencies actionable intelligence. to avoid the next pandemic before it takes hold.

“The technology is already there, developed by leading biosecurity companies such as Kromek. Deploying it in our airports and ports and in our urban centers would better protect us against the next pandemic.

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