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What is Sona's coronavirus test?

Since it was identified in China at the end of 2019, the coronavirus outbreak, also known as Covid-19, has spread across the world and infected tens of thousands of people.

The outbreak has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments have struggled to contain its progress.

Sona Nanotech is bringing together an international consortium of businesses to develop a quick response screening test for Covid-19.

Screening tests are critical tools in dealing with rapidly evolving and large-scale outbreaks that place huge pressures on healthcare systems, like Covid-19. These tests can rapidly identify at-risk patients, which allows the medical community to focus its resources on the patients that need help the most.

Sona will integrate its proprietary nanotechnology into a disposable lateral flow test platform to create a new rapid test for Covid-19. Though best known for its use in the home pregnancy test, lateral flow technology is used in the detection of a range of viruses and infectious diseases including hepatitis, HIV and Ebola.

There is currently no lateral flow test specific to Covid-19. Until now the majority of testing completed for Covid-19 uses molecular-based technology (PCR), a testing platform that typically costs more than $200 per test, frequently takes 2-4 hours to produce results, and requires specialized laboratory equipment and skilled technicians to operate.



When completed, Sona’s Covid-19 test is expected to produce results in 5-15 minutes and is anticipated to cost less than $50. It will not require any additional laboratory-based equipment and can be administered by a layperson at the point of care.

Sona’s Covid-19 test will offer a unique advantage over other lateral flow tests as it detects the presence of the Covid-19 virus. To date, the only competitive lateral flow tests that have been announced for sale are serological assay tests, which are designed to identify IgM and IgG antibodies present post infection.

Serological tests are susceptible to producing false positive and false negative results if a patient is suffering from any one of a variety of unrelated infections (I.e. ear or tooth infection, regular flu, etc.). Sona’s test is being developed to indicate a positive result only when the Covid-19 virus is present, allowing for direct and clear interpretation.

Sona’s test can be used as a screening tool to rapidly identify patients as being ‘at risk’ or ‘not at risk’ of Covid-19. This will help ease the burden on health practitioners and allow resources to be diverted to those who need it most.

The test could be ideal for use in a variety of scenarios, such as:

  • An in-home test and monitoring
  • To identify if patients require further testing or treatment in a clinical setting
  • To verify if patients are ready for release from quarantine
  • To screen individuals prior to entering closed public venues such as cruise ships and airplanes
Sona Nanotech & GE Health Life Sciences partnership
NativeAntigen & Sona Nanotech
Bond Digital Health & Sona Nanotech

Who are Sona's partners?

Sona has so far announced three partners for this project – GE Healthcare Life Sciences, The Native Antigen Company and Bond Digital Health.

  • GE Healthcare Life Sciences helps therapy innovators, researchers and healthcare providers accelerate how precision diagnostics and therapies are invented, made and used. Sona and GE Healthcare Life Sciences will jointly complete test development of the Sona Covid-19 Coronavirus rapid response lateral flow test, and will use GE Healthcare Life Sciences’ Fast Flow High Performance Membrane (FFHP) in production of the test.


  • Native is a leading supplier of native and recombinant antigens for emerging and endemic infectious diseases. It is one of the first recognised suppliers to release biological materials for use in diagnostic tests specific to Covid-19. Native will supply its Covid-19 biological materials to Sona for use in its rapid screening test.
  • Bond offers the only known proprietary digital data capture and analysis system designed specifically for lateral flow devices. Bond’s data platform offers industry leading data security and is fully compliant with all relevant regulations. Bond will add data capture and analysis to Sona’s test, which will allow test result data to be collected through either a reader system or mobile app before being securely stored in the cloud. There it can be accessed and analysed, and could ultimately help authorities monitor the spread of the outbreak in real time.

Sona is currently in discussions with potential partners for validation testing, product manufacture and distribution. 

Who are Sona's scientific advisors?

Fiona Marshall

Fiona Marshall will assist the Sona team with scientific considerations of test development, manufacturing set-up, quality control and regulatory approval. Ms. Marshall is the current CEO of AgPlus Diagnostics Limited and has extensive experience in the lateral flow industry, having been responsible for establishing a US-based R&D and production facility for the development and manufacture of various lateral flow tests, including tests for class 3 deadly pathogens that served US military contracts. She also oversaw the development of a rapid-response test development program during the 2013 Ebola outbreak as well as other tests for influenza, narcotics and explosives.

Sandy Morrison

Sandy Morrison is the President of Quality Systems Atlantic and has over 30 years of experience in the medical device industry, with leadership roles in manufacturing, quality systems and regulatory affairs. He was involved in obtaining regulatory approval of the first rapid assay for HIV approved by Health Canada and the US FDA. He will be assisting Sona in its ongoing submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) with the FDA.

What is the economic impact of Covid-19?

The global financial cost of the Covid-19 outbreak is significant. World stock markets saw a slump at the end of February 2020 as investors started to express concern about the impact of the outbreak. In the last week of February major markets suffered their worst weekly performance since the 2008 financial crisis, and in March, the Dow Jones and the FTSE saw their biggest one day declines since 1987.

Even the price of gold, traditionally seen as a safe investment in times of economic uncertainty, tumbled in March amid fears of a global recession.

In March, the US cut interest rates to almost zero and launched a $700bn stimulus programme to help protect the economy from the effect of the pandemic. The European Central Bank quickly followed with an emergency $820bn package.

In the US, a record number of Americans filed for unemployment as the economy was put in lockdown – 3.3 million for the week ending March 21.

Oxford Economics, a leading economic forecaster, warned that if the virus turned into a pandemic it could cost the global economy more than $1tn (US).
It said the spread of the virus to regions outside Asia would knock 1.3% off global growth in 2020, the equivalent of $1.1tn in lost income.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airline industry body, warned that airlines are set to lose between $63bn and $113 bn (US) in 2020 as a result of the outbreak. IATA predicted that demand for air travel would fall for the first time in a decade. In March, struggling UK regional airline Flybe collapsed, partly blaming Covid-19, and experts warned others could follow. In the US, regional airlines Trans State Airlines and Compass Airlines announced they would close in April as a result of the outbreak.

Covid-19 timeline

31st December 2019 – Health authorities in Wuhan, China, announce they are treating dozens of cases of a new virus with pneumonia-like symptoms.

7th January 2020 – Authorities announce they have identified the outbreak as a novel coronavirus.

11th January 2020 – China reports its first death from the coronavirus.

20th January 2020 – The World Health Organisation confirms that the first cases of coronavirus outside China have occurred in Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

23rd January 2020 – Wuhan is completely closed down by Chinese authorities to try to control the spread of the outbreak.

30th January 2020 – The WHO declares the coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern.”

2nd February 2020 – The first coronavirus death is reported outside of China as a 44-year-old man dies in the Philippines.

10th February 2020 – The Coronavirus death toll in China rises to 908, surpassing the global number of deaths from the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003, which killed 774.

10th February 2020 – Sona Nanotech announces it is developing a rapid screening test for the coronavirus outbreak using lateral flow diagnostic test technology.

11th February 2020 – The death toll in China tops 1,000. The WHO names the coronavirus Covid-19.

19th February 2020 – Iran announces the first two cases of Covid-19 in the country. Hours later it announces both patients have died. The source of the virus in Iran is unknown.

21st February 2020 – A secretive church in South Korea is linked to a surge in cases in the country, prompting authorities to shut thousands of schools, nursing homes and community centres.

22nd February 2020 – The WHO expresses concern at the number of coronavirus cases with no clear link to China, and warns that the window of opportunity to contain the virus is “narrowing”.

23rd February 2020 – Italy imposes quarantine restrictions on the regions of Veneto and Lombardy as the country deals with the highest number of cases in Europe.

24th February 2020 – Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Afghanistan and Oman all report their first cases of the virus.

26th February 2020 – Norway, Romania, Greece, Georgia, Pakistan, North Macedonia and Brazil report their first cases.

27th February 2020 – Estonia, Denmark, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands report their first cases. The number infected worldwide passes 82,000.

28th February 2020 – The WHO upgrades the global risk for Covid-19 to “very high” – the highest alert it can declare. 

1st March 2020 – The first Coronavirus deaths are recorded in North America. Two people die of the virus in the same hospital in Washington State.

2nd March 2020 – The number of deaths worldwide reaches 3,000.

4th March 2020 – The WHO says the mortality rate for Covid-19 is 3.4 per cent. It says the virus is deadlier than the flu but does not transmit as easily.

6th March 2020 – The number of cases tops 100,000 worldwide. The WHO expresses concern that some countries are not taking the threat of Covid-19 seriously enough. The first cases are confirmed in the Vatican, Serbia and Slovakia.

8th March 2020 –  Italy places up to 16 million people under quarantine in several central and northern provinces, including the cities of Milan and Venice, to contain the spread of Covid-19. The measures will last until April.

9th March 2020 Italy expands the quarantine to the whole country, restricting the movements of more than 60 million people. The country has the highest incidence of infection outside China, with more than 9,170 cases and 460 deaths.

10th March 2020 China says it has ‘curbed’ the virus in Wuhan and its province Hubei as it records its lowest number of infections in a day – 19.

11th March 2020 The WHO labels the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and expresses concern over “alarming levels of inaction” by world governments. US president Donald Trump suspends travel to the US from 26 European countries in the Schengen border-free travel area in a bid to halt the spread of the outbreak.

13th March 2020 US president Donald Trump declares a national state of emergency. Unesco, the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural body, says 49 countries have school closures in place in response to the outbreak. Sophie Trudeau, wife of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, tests positive for Covid-19. The couple announce they will self isolate for 14 days. 

15th March 2020 The WHO says Europe is now the “epicenter” of the pandemic. Spain and France announce emergency restrictions. In Spain, people are banned from leaving home except for essential supplies while in France, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and most shops are closed.

16th March 2020 New York city and Los Angeles close all restaurants, cinemas, bars and cafes. 

17th March 2020 – The first human trial of a Covid-19 vaccine takes place in Washington State, US. The vaccine sidesteps the usual process of first being tested on animals.

18th March 2020 – China’s Hubei Province reports no new cases for two consecutive days.

19th March 2020 – The death toll in Italy overtakes that of China.

20th March 2020 – Confirmed cases worldwide near 250,000, with more than 10,000 deaths. California announces a state-wide ‘stay at home’ order for all its people – a population of 40 million.  Argentina becomes the first Latin American country to impose a nationwide lockdown.

23rd March 2020 – The WHO warns the pandemic is “accelerating” as confirmed cases pass 350,000 with more than 15,000 deaths. The UK introduces strict measures including banning public gatherings and the closure of all non-essential shops.

25th March 2020  India enforces a total nationwide lockdown of its 1.3bn population for 21 days. It means a quarter of the world’s population is now under some form of lockdown. The UK’s Prince Charles, aged 71, tests positive for coronavirus with “mild symptoms”. The death toll in Spain overtakes that of China, and is second only to Italy.

26th March 2020 – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus, experiencing “mild symptoms”. The US now has more than 85,000 cases, overtaking China.

30th March 2020 – Confirmed cases pass 724,000, with more than 34,000 deaths.

You can track the spread of the outbreak in near-real time on this interactive map developed by John Hopkins University (JHU).

What is the coronavirus/Covid-19?

Coronavirus is the name given to a large group of viruses that includes the common cold. It also includes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), virus outbreaks that have previously hit the headlines.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted between animals and people. Common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe respiratory difficulties, kidney failure and even death.

Covid-19 is the name of a novel (new) coronavirus that was first identified in Wuhan in the Hubei Province of China at the end of December 2019. It is believed the virus started at a seafood and poultry market.

It is not known exactly how Covid-19 is spread from person to person, but similar viruses are spread via droplets from coughing or sneezing.

The vast majority of patients infected with Covid-19 have had mild symptoms including a sore throat, cough and fever and have gone on to make a full recovery. Some patients, especially older people and those with pre-existing conditions, have developed more severe symptoms including pneumonia and breathing difficulties. In rare cases the infection has proved fatal.

The incubation period of the virus (the time between infection and symptoms showing), lasts up to 14 days, according to the WHO. In March the WHO announced that the mortality rate for Covid-19 is 3.4 per cent. It said the virus is deadlier than the flu but does not transmit as easily.

Currently there is no specific treatment for the virus, though work on a vaccine is underway. Human trials started in the US in March 2020 after sidestepping the usual process of testing on animals first.


What’s the difference between Covid-19 and other outbreaks?

This is not the first time the world has dealt with a coronavirus outbreak: in 2012 there was an outbreak of a coronavirus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and in 2002-2003 there was an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and by 2018 there had been more than 2,100 cases reported in 27 countries, with 750 deaths. SARS is much more severe than other coronavirus infections. The 2002-2003 outbreak started in China and spread to 30 other countries. More than 8,000 cases were reported worldwide, with 774 deaths.

Covid-19 has spread much further and faster than previous outbreaks of MERS and SARS. Within two months of the outbreak, there had been more than 79,000 cases and almost 2,500 deaths. This can be attributed to increased globalisation and the fact Covid-19 started in Wuhan, a major transport hub connecting the whole of China.

The WHO said it took 67 days from the first reported Covid-19 case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases. 

One of the highest-profile viral outbreaks of recent years has been Ebola. Between 2013 and 2016 an epidemic in West Africa saw 28,646 cases and 11,323 deaths. Ebola is a highly deadly disease with a mortality rate of around 50 per cent. Unlike coronavirus, Ebola is only transmitted by direct contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of a person with Ebola.