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Scots-made Covid testing swab cuts need for imports

Marc Desmulliez: collaboration

A new COVID-19 testing swab which can collect sufficient viral material from the back of the nose without need of a throat swab is now being manufactured in Scotland.  

The 3D printed swabs provide a less intrusive experience compared to traditional cotton bud swabs, cutting testing time, reducing anxiety and minimising discomfort for patients.  

Crucially, the success of a collaborative effort behind this latest development should reduce Scotland’s and the UK’s reliance on expensive inbound PPE and medical device imports, according to one of the key participants.

The Medical Device Manufacturing Centre (MDMC), based at Heriot-Watt University, and the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) at Scottish Enterprise have worked with Scottish company Abergower 3D to help manufacture the new design. Once used, the swabs can be processed at labs such as Lighthouse in Glasgow.     

Abergower received the exclusive licence to manufacture the swabs in Europe from US Company, EnvisionTec.

Over the last 10 months, Abergower has worked closely with the MDMC, Scottish Enterprise, The Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Services and other Scottish companies, including E&O Laboratories and Andersen Caledonia, to design and develop the swabs to UK and European specification and standards.  

The swabs can also be used as a complete testing pack if required. 

Professor Marc Desmulliez from Heriot-Watt University is manager of the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre (MDMC). He said: “It was important to establish robust manufacturing capabilities here in Scotland for this critical type of swab and the MDMC has worked closely with Abergower to achieve large volume manufacturing of up to 25,000 swabs a day over an accelerated time frame.  

“It’s easy to forget how critical the situation was last year and the challenges the country faced in getting the right type and quantity of medical devices for testing and personal protection equipment (PPE). The MDMC was funded to help companies like Abergower to accelerate medical devices to market. 

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“The success of this type of collaboration will benefit patients across the UK as testing continues but also ensures that both Scotland and the UK are more resilient, reducing our reliance on expensive inbound PPE and medical device imports.

“We are now seeing the creation of a supply chain within Scotland that can provide all the necessary items to deliver COVID-19 testing. This is a great example of a collaboration between industry, academia and the regional development agency, Scottish Enterprise”. 

Robin Prior, managing director of Abergower, commented: “As the UK’s first approved manufacturer of this product, we see strong future potential in this emerging technology. It is rewarding to bring hi-tech manufacturing capability to Scotland and to build a sustainable and valued contribution to the Scottish economy going forward.   

“We are currently working with partners in Europe and further afield to offer this to a wider global audience.” 



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