A portable mini-lab designed for defence needs could also be used to cut the detection of food pathogens, genetic modification or animal diseases from hours to just 30 minutes.
Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) first used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) process to develop fast accurate battlefield detection systems for biological warfare agents. But the system's wider potential was soon realised and now DSTL is launching a joint venture with industry to commercialise the technology.
The spin-off company, called Enigma Diagnostics, will launch two rapid, fully-automated diagnostic machines. It has adapted the PCR process and created unique features that can provide in-the-field testing.
Applications include rapid in-the-field testing for diseases such as foot and mouth and tuberculosis (TB) in cattle; genetic modifications (GM) in foodstuffs at the food processing plant or point of sale, as well as spot contamination tests for pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli.
DSTL chief executive Martin Earwicker says: "As the research arm of the Ministry of Defence, DSTL leads the way in defence science and technology. There are often wider uses for this excellent work and we are proud to announce yet another spin-out company which can make a real difference in the field of diagnostics."
Enigma Diagnostics has £5m funding from a consortium of investors led by Porton Capital and the Treasury/private venture company Partnerships UK.
Based on the Tetricus Science Park at DSTL in Porton Down, Enigma Diagnostics has access to a wide range of equipment, facilities and expertise.
Contact: DSTL, Tel: 01980 613933