Untap Health’s Innovative Approach to Risk Tracking
Untap Health, a London-based startup, is revolutionizing the way offices and care homes track the risk of infectious diseases such as flu and COVID-19. The company is leveraging the power of wastewater-based epidemiology to extract valuable data from sewage samples, providing real-time insights into the presence of pathogens and the associated risk levels.
Untap Health, a London-based startup, is revolutionizing risk tracking for infectious diseases like flu and COVID-19 in offices and care homes. Their solution leverages wastewater-based epidemiology to provide real-time intelligence on pathogen presence and associated risk levels. By automating PCR testing of sewage samples, the company offers a cost-effective and efficient alternative to traditional surveillance methods. Untap Health aims to expand its detection capabilities, while prioritizing ethical considerations and privacy concerns
Unlike traditional surveillance methods that involve manual collection of sewage samples and time-consuming lab analysis, Untap Health’s solution offers continuous and automated testing. This means that building managers and health and safety leads can access real-time intelligence through a digital dashboard, eliminating the need for cumbersome lateral flow tests.
The founders of Untap Health, Dr. Claire Trant and Dr. Jay Bullen, were inspired to develop this solution during the COVID-19 pandemic. Witnessing the logistical challenges faced by the government in collecting and testing sewage samples from various locations, they realized the need for a faster and more efficient system. With their expertise in water chemistry and water tech regulation, they embarked on a mission to revolutionize wastewater surveillance.
How Untap Health’s Solution Works
Untap Health has developed a prototype hardware that automates the process of sewage surveillance. The hardware uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, the gold standard in disease detection, to measure the concentration of genetic material of different viruses and bacteria in the wastewater. By tracking changes in the baseline data over time, the solution provides a quantifiable risk score for customers.
The goal is to offer a commercial service that can perform PCR testing on-site, providing same-day infection data to the community within a building. This real-time information can help prevent outbreaks and enable organizations to implement appropriate measures to protect their staff and residents. Untap Health’s solution is not only cheaper and less intrusive than widespread lateral flow testing but also eliminates the need for manual access to sewage.
Expanding Detection Capabilities
Initially, Untap Health’s focus was on COVID-19 surveillance on a city scale. However, due to the speed at which their prototype generated data, they realized the potential for broader use cases. The company plans to develop a technology capable of detecting up to 12 pathogens, including flu, Norovirus, RSV, and more. This broader detection capability opens up opportunities to sell real-time illness detection to care homes, offices, and even cruise ships.
Ethical Considerations and Future Plans
While Untap Health believes there is immense potential in the field of wastewater-based epidemiology, the company is cautious about ethical considerations and privacy concerns. They have no intention of venturing into areas such as drug detection and will proceed slowly with the addition of new pathogens to their detection list to prioritize public health and well-being.
Looking ahead, Untap Health plans to explore partnerships with smart building companies to enhance their technology and offer deeper insights. They also envision applying machine learning to predict infection risk and aggregating data for public health purposes. By collating data at a city level, Untap Health hopes to support smarter procurement and healthcare resource management, facilitating more efficient vaccine rollout programs and targeted distribution of antivirals or PPE.