$5.5m for medical manufacturers

08/07/2021 - 15:30

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A local company hoping to roll out mass screening COVID-19 tests in airports has been picked for a $3 million federal manufacturing grant.

$5.5m for medical manufacturers
Paul Watt (left) with Tony Fitzgerald, Paul Ostergaard and Dave Kelly and Avicena's prototype. Photo: Supplied

A local company hoping to roll out mass screening COVID-19 tests in airports has been picked for a $3 million federal manufacturing grant.

West Perth-based Avicena Systems will use the cash to scale up manufacturing of its rapid mass screening platform for the virus behind the pandemic which has caused more than 4 million deaths around the world.

The company’s Sentinel assaying system can process nearly 100,000 saliva tests per day and can detect if someone is infectious with the COVID virus in 35 minutes.

The grant will be through the Modern Manufacturing Initiative and was announced by Industry Minister Christian Porter today.

The state government chipped in $500,000 innovation funding to pilot the technology in October.

In January, Avicena scored $150,000 from the state’s New Industries Fund.

The company had sold units to governments in Hungary and Spain, the state’s release said at the time.

Avicena chief executive Tony Fitzgerald said the product would help control the spread of the virus, while offering individuals a faster and more comfortable screening experience.

“In addition to vaccination, full resumption of travel, tourism, and large-scale entertainment events will require rapid, accurate, high throughput screening technology to identify infectious individuals, especially at airports,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“The PCR testing process can be uncomfortable and typically takes overnight to produce results. 

“Our system uses saliva samples with a turnaround time of about 45 minutes, making testing significantly faster, easier and more comfortable for potentially millions of people.”

Tracing success

A second local business, Cyclowest, will receive a $2.5 million grant through the Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

The company is developing a facility in Bayswater with labs which will produce tracers to help diagnose medical conditions, including cancer.

The cash will help it scale up the facility with a state-of-the-art cyclotron, Mr Porter’s statement said.

Cyclowest general manager Thomas Tuchyna said the tracers would be used for medical imaging.

The company had planned to build its facility in two modular stages, but will now be able to bring the assembly of the second lab forward. 

In that lab, the medical imaging agents will have a longer life than those produced in the first lab, and so the company will be able to send the products interstate or overseas.

“(Our) plans have been brought forward conservatively two years, possibly as far as three or four years,” Mr Tuchyna said.

The first lab will be ready in early 2023, with the second lab to be operating by the end of that year, he said.

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