MacRobert Award goes to DnaNudge

Written by: Andrew Wade | Published:
The Royal Ballet is just one cultural organisation to benefit from DnaNudge's COVID testing platform (Credit: RAEng)

DnaNudge has been awarded the 2021 MacRobert Award for its consumer genetics screening platform which was adapted to test for COVID-19.

Awarded by the Royal Academy of Engineering since 1969, the MacRobert Award is one of the UK’s most prestigious engineering prizes, with previous winners including the Harrier Jump Jet, the Raspberry Pi micro-computer and the CT scanner. As well as joining this esteemed company, DnaNudge will receive the signature MacRobert Award gold medal and a £50,000 cash prize.

The biotech firm’s CovidNudge rapid test technology eveolved from its existing consumer DNA testing service, which was originally developed to address nutrition and lifestyle-influenced health conditions such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Now in use in care homes and supporting the return of the arts sector, the test can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus from saliva samples on-site in just over an hour.

The Royal Opera House, home of The Royal Ballet, is also currently benefiting from DnaNudge’s COVID testing service, which is helping to enable the venue’s 2021/22 programme of live music, dance and theatre events. The London Symphony Orchestra, Glyndebourne Festival and other arts and cultural organisations are similarly using DnaNudge’s RT-PCR test to support the safe re-opening of the UK’s cultural sector.

“DnaNudge is an excellent example of how the UK engineering community adapted to be at the forefront of the global efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Professor Sir Richard Friend FREng FRS, Chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel.

“Its role in supporting the government with its testing capabilities will have gone a long way to helping to understand and contain the virus. Looking towards the future, this technology knows no limits, helping consumers to take control of their health and lifestyle and make informed dietary decisions, with positive long-term implications.”

Based at the Imperial College London Translation and Innovation Hub in White City, DnaNudge was created by biomedical engineer Regius Professor Chris Toumazou and geneticist Dr Maria Karvela. The company’s Lab-in-Cartridge allows consumers to provide a cheek swab in-store or posted from home. In just over an hour, DnaNudge’s NudgeBox portable analyser maps the user’s genetic profile to key nutrition-related health traits. Using the wrist-worn DnaBand or using the DnaNudge mobile app, people are then able to scan food products sold in UK supermarkets to find out whether the nutritional contents are a good match for their individual biology, effectively shopping with your DNA and lifestyle.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be named the winner of the 2021 MacRobert Award, joining the ranks of some of the UK’s most innovative and world-changing engineers,” said Professor Toumazou.

“The past year has been challenging for all, but the determination and commitment of the entire DnaNudge team to get behind our health service and deliver a truly life-saving solution has been incredible. We look forward to expanding the capabilities of our transformative genetic testing platform to address other major global health challenges, including in the area of oncology and STDs. This is just the beginning of our technology’s capabilities.”


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