Lateral flow tests indicate the presence of specific substances in a fluid by showing one or more lines on a testing substrate. Familiar to many people in one of their simplest forms as home pregnancy tests, as the tests become more sophisticated and complex, reading them accurately becomes more challenging and time-consuming. Today, there are thousands of these tests on the market for a variety of applications, from enabling physicians to monitor the health of HIV/AIDS patients and detecting harmful chemicals in water supplies, to providing near-instant tests for deadly diseases such as Ebola.
While the tests provide a high degree of portability and rapid results for field and point-of-care use, interpreting them often requires laboratory expertise. Novarum DX, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, aims to change that and unlock the full potential of lateral flow tests. “We started Novarum DX three years ago based on the idea that we could make the reading of lateral flow tests easy by using smartphones and their built-in cameras,” says Neil Polwart, Managing Director at Novarum DX. The Novarum Reader can provide pass/fail test results as well as quantitative outputs, providing foolproof performance for virtually any user with minimal training.
When Novarum DX first started developing their technology, they looked at the full breadth of cross-platform development tools with a focus on minimizing UI development. They soon realized, however, that the most important thing for the Novarum Reader was native access to the camera, native computational performance, and the ability to reuse business logic. “In other write-once-run-anywhere solutions, you don’t get powerful enough access to the device hardware, nor do you get native performance. We’re doing computationally expensive image processing, so we need the native performance Xamarin provides,” Polwart explains.
Xamarin has streamlined the development process for Novarum DX. “We’ve used Xamarin from the beginning. Using native development, we’d have to have two separate teams, so essentially Xamarin enables us to use half the resources we would otherwise,” says Polwart. “We aim for 80% code reuse between platforms.”
The Novarum DX team has grown from two team members to eleven in just three years, including five mobile developers who work across Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. “Since that first app, we’ve undertaken about 20 different projects for a variety of customers, including medical device companies with strict quality and regulatory requirements. We’ve developed a platform approach based on Xamarin that allows us to speed up development for our customers. For a basic app, we expect to be able to build something in four to six weeks, and we’ve generated about 1.5 million US dollars in revenue with Xamarin as our platform.” reports Polwart.