The Olympic Winter Games were held at three separate locations in and around Beijing which posed unusual challenges for monitoring the athletes’ health and optimising their physical and mental well-being. Dragonﬂy’s unique portability provided the ideal mode to easily transport exquisitely sensitive and speciﬁc testing tools to distant athletic venues. Dragonﬂy is a DNA and RNA multiplex diagnostic platform which includes a respiratory panel that rapidly distinguishes among Inﬂuenza A, Inﬂuenza B, RSV, Rhinovirus and SARS-CoV-2. The test is complete from start to ﬁnish in 30 minutes, providing results equivalent to PCR technology. It was developed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Imperial College London in order to bring cutting-edge diagnostic tools to any point-of-need, including remote locations such as isolated team training centres and areas without laboratories.
Utilising molecular LAMP-based technology, Dragonﬂy is capable of detecting low viral loads associated with an early stage in the disease process. Imperial College lecturer, Dr. Jesus Rodriguez Manon, along with ProtonDx Head of Engineering, Matthew Cavuto and their colleagues at ProtonDx, have developed an innovative sample collection and analysis technique that provides a remarkably pure and ampliﬁed DNA/RNA sample that is commensurate with the gold standard but without the requirement of laboratory processing. Dragonﬂy makes use of the core technology to deliver a colour-change test kit for the identiﬁcation of multiple respiratory illnesses.
The only hardware needed to complete the LAMP reaction is a small, portable heating block. Initial customer engagement has shown that performance sports teams, among others, are motivated to quickly identify pathogens causing illness in their athletes, enabling rapid treatment or isolation strategies.
“With sample to result in less than 30 minutes and the ability to simultaneously run multiple tests, Dragonﬂy allowed us to bring the lab to our athletes,” stated Greg Retter, Head of Performance Services and Team GB’s Covid Liaison Officer in Beijing. Retter added, “Upon arrival to Beijing, two of our athletes received an unexpected positive COVID test performed by the Chinese authorities. While we believed that neither had COVID as all delegates had undergone rigorous additional PCR testing prior to departure, both athletes were tested with Dragonﬂy, and within 30 minutes assured that they were indeed negative. The negative Dragonﬂy test provided valuable and timely reassurance allowing a good night’s rest. On the following day, subsequent Chinese testing conﬁrmed the athletes were indeed negative.”
Team GB reached out to the ProtonDx team on numerous occasions during the Olympic Winter Games and provided insights into the high-stakes implementation of remote viral testing in elite athletes. “Our entire company was energised to see the photos sent from Team GB in which Dragonﬂy was used at the top of the downhill ski venue and at -20 C,” shared Bob Enck, Chairman of ProtonDx.
Dragonﬂy’s application extends well beyond elite sports. Its use is invaluable for any setting where accurately and quickly identifying the aetiology of a respiratory infection is beneﬁcial. In nursing homes or elderly care facilities, for example, immediately detecting an Inﬂuenza or COVID-19 outbreak would direct appropriate action to be taken to protect residents. In complex workforce management – such as in warehouses or distribution centres – regulations require diﬀerent procedures to be implemented for an RSV outbreak compared to a COVID-19 outbreak. Precisely and rapidly identifying the responsible pathogen would allow optimal management to keep workers