Australian startups hope Ellume’s success will help tap global markets

Australian startups at the cutting edge of rapid diagnostic testing say a decision from US regulators to approve an at-home COVID-19 test from Brisbane biotech Ellume will help unlock global markets for local firms.

Ellume made headlines on Wednesday after the company secured emergency use authorisation to sell its over-the-counter tests in the US market. It is the first self-test to be approved for coronavirus in the US market and the business plans to ship more than 20 million units in 2021, having received $US40 million from the US government to develop the technology.

Ellume's COVID-19 test kits are used with a free phone app, and do not require samples to be sent to a lab, meaning it can generate a result in around 15 minutes.
Ellume’s COVID-19 test kits are used with a free phone app, and do not require samples to be sent to a lab, meaning it can generate a result in around 15 minutes.

Ellume’s success in raising funds this year was matched by other Australian startups developing rapid testing kits. Atomo Diagnostics hit the ASX boards in April after raising $30 million and has since gone on to develop its flagship self-test HIV product as well as rapid COVID-19 tests.

Meanwhile, Lumos Diagnostics raised $25 million in funding ahead of an anticipated ASX listing.


Like Ellume, the companies are focused on the global opportunity from rapid diagnostic tests during COVID-19 and beyond. Lumos executive chairman Sam Lanyon said Ellume’s news was “huge” for validating Australian businesses wanting to reach global markets.

“It shows an Australian company can get ahead of the pack and bring a test to market. It bodes extremely well for us and makes our job a hell of a lot easier,” Mr Lanyon said.

Lumos Diagnostics has designed a rapid test that distinguishes whether a patient has a viral or bacterial test and has been used in pilot programs in the UK to triage patients when they present with cold-like symptoms. Mr Lanyon said the business was also considering the opportunities of at-home versions of these tests.

Atomo Diagnostics managing director John Kelly said news of Ellume’s successes “helps the sector in general and provides more confidence”.

Atomo generates the majority of its business offshore, with a flagship product which is a self-HIV test, as well as TGA-approved COVID-19 tests. Mr Kelly said while there was traction growing in the diagnostics space, home-grown businesses had to be well-funded and globally-focused to succeed.

“You’ve got to be well capitalised and the Australian market is limited by its size. If you want to get beyond a certain size, you have to head overseas.”

Mr Lanyon agreed, saying Ellume’s success came after securing significant funding both overseas and in Australia, where the Queensland government committed $50 million to support the manufacturing effort.

“It takes a lot of investment to do this – and the more capital available, the better.”

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