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The Future of Lateral Flow

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Lateral flow assays have evolved rapidly over the last 30 years, and are routinely used for point-of-care and companion diagnostic applications. Technology advances have been the driving force behind this recent growth, helping lateral flow to transform from simple qualitative tests into complex multi-analyte quantitative assays with built-in digital outputs. 

BBI Solutions has been at the forefront of this technology revolution, and we recently caught up with the company’s Managing Director, Liam Taylor, to discuss the expansion of lateral flow testing as a tool for diagnostics and patient monitoring.

Can you start by giving us a brief history of lateral flow technology?

Lateral flow assays have existed for over 50 years. The initial tests were simple and crude, and used to measure the pH of liquids. By the late 80s, the development of antibody technologies and new solid phase materials – together with high throughput manufacturing methods – led to the creation of the hCG pregnancy test, which is probably the most widely recognised lateral flow assay. Not much has changed in the industry since then – it’s been evolution not revolution. 

So how does BBI Solutions fit into this?

BBI started as a spin-out from Cardiff University, on the back of the development of our world-class gold nanoparticles. We are still world leaders in gold nanoparticle production today, producing the most spherical, consistent and stable particles on a scale nobody else can match. But having the ability to make the particles is only one piece of the puzzle, and so the company looked for applications that would benefit from the high quality particles we were producing. Lateral flow was really starting to take off at this time, so it was a natural fit, and we quickly developed in-house expertise in lateral flow test development and optimisation. This led on to scale-up and, ultimately, manufacturing of lateral flow test components. Since then we have worked on almost every conceivable application of lateral flow technology, testing everything from blood and urine to milk and aviation fuel.

Why do people come to BBI Solutions?

We are one of the biggest independent lateral flow development houses in the world, so we have a very broad range of experience of different analytes and sample matrices, and how to manipulate those to get an assay to run reliably and with highest possible sensitivity and specificity. We often have clients, including experienced market leaders, come to us with a technical problem, and it’s our job to provide a workable solution. We have an excellent track record of success in this area, so the BBI brand has a certain pedigree to it.

Tell us about your Morffi™ signal enhancement technology – how did that come about?

A few years ago, we spent a lot of time talking to our customers to find out what the key requirements for lateral flow test development were. It became clear that the market was looking for ways of enhancing performance, both to increase specificity and sensitivity for traditional applications, and to open up new opportunities for lateral flow testing. As an innovative company, we relished the challenge, and so made the decision to create an ‘Innovations’ team including some of our most knowledgeable and highly skilled people. The first outcome of this work is the Morffi signal enhancement technology, which is now offered as part of our lateral flow development service. 

How is this technology benefitting your customers and end users?

Morffi technology can be used to increase sensitivity of lateral flow immunoassays. It offers an up to ten times increase in sensitivity, improved signal intensity and faster time-to-result for situations where a quick diagnosis is critical to patient care. It is proving very popular with our existing development partners, as well as some new customers, and has led to a significant increase in the number of feasibility studies we’re being asked to perform. Basically, we’re saying to the market ‘We’ve got this special technology and we’d love the opportunity to use it to help you to solve some of your toughest challenges.’ It’s an exciting time for the company, and we’re seeing a very good success rate in terms of being able to use the Morffi technology to enhance the performance of our customers’ assays.

What trends are you seeing develop in the lateral flow market?

This is where things are getting really interesting. The recent advances in the field mean that we are now beginning to see a significant migration of big pharmaceutical companies back into the lateral flow space, and I think there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, healthcare economics is becoming increasingly important globally – and especially in Europe – leading to many areas of patient management adopting a ‘test first and prescribe later’ strategy. Lateral flow is perfect for this kind of application, offering low cost testing that can be performed close to the patient without the need for extensive equipment or staff training. 

The second reason lateral flow is growing in popularity is because these tests are simple enough that they can often be performed by the patient themselves. This allows pharmaceutical companies to offer companion diagnostics and develop a relationship with consumers that stems beyond a single product. This makes business sense from the pharmaceutical companies’ perspective, providing them with opportunities to gain a deeper insight into patient needs, or drive further revenues through supplying other products. We expect this trend to continue over the next few years, leading to major growth in the lateral flow market. 

To learn more about lateral flow development service and Morffi signal enhancement technology, visit www.bbisolutions.com  

About BBI Solutions

BBI Solutions is a leading manufacturer of biological reagents and finished test platforms for the in-vitro diagnostics market. BBI is a global business with manufacturing sites spanning three continents. 

Our range of raw materials includes human antigens, antibodies, serum and plasma products and clinical chemistry enzymes. We manufacture world renowned labels for lateral flow, ELISA assay and biosensors, including our gold nanoparticles and glucose oxidase.

BBI Solutions offer lateral flow development and manufacturing services with a core focus on gold conjugation and lateral flow test manufacture.

BBI Solutions is part of the BBI Group.