From pharma to farming: the story of SwiftDetect (so far…)

21 May 2021

Having successfully launched our SwiftDetect for Septoria service in March 2021, it’s easy to forget that SwiftDetect wasn’t originally developed for the agricultural world. In fact, it was initially developed for the Pharmaceutical industry!

Here’s our story so far!

2014: a life-saving solution in Pharma?

In the pharmaceutical industry, sterility testing is carried out to ensure products aren’t contaminated. However, conventional sterility tests have such long lead times, that by the time contamination is discovered, the product could have already made its way out of the plant and into the clinic. In 2014, this resulted in a disaster at a pharmaceutical company, where baby foods were contaminated with bacteria.

Shook by the tragedy and recognising that current methods of sterility testing needed to be better, Microgenetics was born, with the mission to win the war against pathogens. SwiftDetect was to be its weapon of choice to help achieve this.

2015: a collaborative approach

A collaboration was set up with Bath University to begin research. The team wanted to determine if it was possible to develop a molecular testing approach incorporating complex sample processing and other detection methods, that could offer speedy results and can be designed to target specific pathogens.

2016-2017: proving the test

It would come as no surprise at this point that the research team managed to successfully develop a complete testing process with superior sensitivity! In fact, further research and development efforts led to the tests ability to detect down to a single cell of contamination in large volume samples, in under 6 hours. This makes the test 56 times faster than conventional sterility tests.

2018 to now: optimisation and validation

Over the last couple of years, SwiftDetect for sterility has been undergoing a process of optimisation and validation. However, the Microgenetics team soon realised how adaptable SwiftDetect was, so began looking at other industries that could benefit from a highly sensitive, rapid detection test. This is where SwiftDetect for Septoria comes in!

2021: SwiftDetect for Septoria launch

Septoria is a devastating disease; in fact, it is often quoted to be the biggest threat to UK cereal crops. Until now, growers had no way of identifying the disease in the latent period, meaning they were unaware if Septoria was present – and to what extent - until visible signs emerge. By this point, the disease could claim up to 50% yield. As a result, growers had no choice but to spray fungicides across their field, which are not only expensive and environmentally damaging, but have led to issues such as resistance in crops.

Now with SwiftDetect, wheat growers can send in a small sample of their leaves to Microgenetics, and gain results (in just 1 business day*) revealing the level of disease in their crop. As a result, they can use fungicides more efficiently and effectively, which should save money, help the environment and protect yield.

Following successful trials in 2020, the service was officially launched in 2021.

2022: more tests to come...

In March 2022, we'll be re-launching SwiftDetect, which will be able to detect even more diseases including:

  • Septoria in wheat
  • Yellow Rust in wheat
  • Brown Rust in wheat
  • Mildew in wheat
  • Ramularia in barley

The future of SwiftDetect

Of course, the development of SwiftDetect doesn't stop there. Our customers are just as excited by the potential of SwiftDetect as we are. That’s why, by popular request, we also are looking to adapt the test to identify other diseases in crops such as oilseed rape, oats, fruits and vegetables. If you want to be kept up to date with these future developments, sign up to our newsletter!

As for the pharmaceutical industry, we’ll be launching SwiftDetect Sterility soon! If you are interested, get in touch to let us know!