Morrama has partnered with developer and manufacturer of rapid lateral flow tests Abingdon Health in a bid to fast-track the development of a plastic free lateral flow immunoassay (biochemical test).
The concept first emerged in 2022 when Morrama designed a biodegradable and recyclable COVID-19 testing kit concept in response to increased use of the tests during the COVID pandemic. Despite a surge in use since 2020, lateral flow tests have been around for decades with “little change” to the design, testing everything from “pregnancy to plant health”, says Morrama design lead Ben Melvin.
Given there are over two billion lateral flow immunoassays manufactured annually with the market set to grow to just under £57.5 billion by 2024, Melvin says there is “an increased need to consider the environmental impact of lateral flow tests”. An estimated 25,000 tonnes of plastic are produced through rapid testing worldwide every year, with the average test containing 10-15g of single use virgin plastic, according to Melvin.
After identifying the opportunity for a design solution, Morrama Lab – the studio’s innovation arm – began “thorough research on the topic”, looking at ways to improve previous designs, Melvin says. Following this, there were rounds of outreach, conversation and testing until the team landed on a final concept and began working towards mass production and market launch.
Early conversations with Abingdon Health revealed that it shared the studio’s desire to reduce plastic waste in the sector, says Melvin, so Morrama partnered with the company under the name Eco-Flo Innovations.
The new plastic free cassette will be manufactured in the UK using renewable plant fibre moulding technology that aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% compared to the equivalent single use plastic. Melvin describes the design as “a straight swap from traditional plastic cassettes” to appeal to companies looking to reduce their environmental impact while retaining ease-of-use.
Since working on the initial concept in 2022, Moramma has “a much better understanding of the materials available” and has had further time to test it, Melvin says. Both the design and materials have evolved since it was first launched, as it was originally designed with recycled paper pulp in mind as the primary material.
This “drastic form update” was informed by “insights from production and assembly” gathered in the past year of development, says Melvin. As well as working better with the plant fibre material, the new shape “optimises the product for implementation into existing production lines” and “maximises the accessibility” of this solution, he explains.
Working with new materials and new production techniques was one of the design challenges, as Morrama had to “rethink how it constructed the design while adhering to the performance requirements of a lateral flow test”, Melvin reveals. He adds that this was helped by Abingdon Health’s experience in the field, as it informed “the core technical details” of the product and “streamlined the development process”.
The new designs reduce the plastic use across the full test kit by 62%, but Melvin says that Eco-Flo Innovations is “already exploring ways to remove or switch out the remaining plastic content in tests”, such as the swabs or pipettes.
Morrama plans to continue working with Abingdon Health to launch Eco-Flo’s first product, before moving to focus on “the wider world of lateral flow testing”, according to Melvin. Eco-Flo’s ambition is to overhaul all aspects of the testing process, considering UX and accessibility as well as sustainability.
Eco-Lab aims to have its first plastic free, compostable cassette available to customers within the next 12 months.