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Boohoo founder launches COVID-19 testing venture

Lauretta Roberts
20 May 2020

Boohoo founder Mahmud Kamani has launched a new COVID-19 testing start-up, which will exclusively market and sell a saliva-based test for the virus directly to consumers around the world.

In partnership with Richard Hughes, founder of investment bank Zeus Capital and a founding shareholder in Boohoo, Kamani has established Medusa19, which has partnered with life sciences business Avacta to sell its home testing kits.

It is currently investing in global e-commerce, logistics and customer support infrastructure in preparation for Avacta’s COVID-19 test launch, and has also secured the non-exclusive rights to sell the test to workplaces to test for the COVID-19 antigen.

Avacta recently announced that it rapidly developed Affimer reagents that detect the SARS-COV-2 virus spike protein and it has now supplied those to Cytiva – formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences – for test development.

The group is intending to establish further rapid test strip manufacturing partners in anticipation of a very high demand for the COVID-19 antigen test.

“We immediately recognised the global opportunity to distribute the simple and unique saliva-based COVID-19 rapid test being developed by Avacta based on their unique and powerful Affimer platform,” said Hughes and Kamani in a statement.

“Medusa19 will enable end-to-end supply of these tests on a global basis subject to regulatory approval – and manufacturing capacity which will be key.

“The enormous, worldwide demand for these tests requires a robust and scalable platform which we are in the process of creating. Hundreds of millions of tests are required and this demand will continue.

“Given this test will be saliva based, it could be used in airports, offices, factories and in the home environment, providing a result within minutes and with no requirement for medical supervision. It is potentially ground-breaking and a major step forward in the fight against COVID-19.”

Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Avacta Group, added: “I am delighted to have entered into this distribution agreement with Medusa19, which will provide a global route direct-to-consumer for Avacta’s rapid point-of-care COVID-19 antigen test.

“The potential size of this market, and the expected demand from businesses for workforce screening, is substantial.

“The significant investment that Medusa19 is making in conjunction with the track records of the Medusa19 team, gives me great confidence in the rapid growth of direct-to-consumer sales of the Avacta COVID-19 test across the United Kingdom, European Union and the United States subject to the necessary regulatory approvals. I expect the commercial impact of this partnership to be very significant to Avacta.

“I am looking forward to working with the Medusa19 team on commercialising the COVID-19 rapid test and other consumer diagnostic tests that Avacta develops in the future, in line with the Group’s Affimer diagnostics strategy.”

Boohoo has emerged as one of the winners in the COVID-19 crisis having increased sales due to its ability to quickly pivot its product offer to high-selling items such as lounge and leisurewear. The company recently carried out a share placing to raise £200m in cash to fund future acquisitions stating the the crisis is likely to present it with many opportunities to build its brand portfolio, which includes Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal, MissPap, Karen Millen and Coast.

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