Driving a step-change in the monitoring of population and environmental health through innovation in wastewater sensing and data analysis technologies

The story so far

In March 2020 the Founder of Bio Data Networks, Brian Neve, formed a small group of experts in advanced process control technology from the UK, USA, Canada and Italy. They shared his view that some of the advanced monitoring and control technology and methodology, used primarily in the Petro-chemical sector, could effectively be applied to the control of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was spreading rapidly throughout the world.

In the early summer of 2020, Brian was invited by the Royal Society to contribute the views of the group to RAMP (Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic). RAMP in turn made recommendations to SAGE members which included the urgent need for improving the speed and efficacy of measuring the spread of infection.

During that time Brian was introduced to Dr. Andrew Singer, Principal Scientist at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who is leading the UK efforts to detect Covid-19 in wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) which promised earlier detection, reduced bias and greatly reduced cost at scale. Andrew expressed to Brian his concerns regarding the inefficiencies and unsuitability of the sampling methods that were, at that time, being deployed in WBE, and the subsequent delays in getting those samples to laboratories for testing.

Brian and Andrew then set up another small group of volunteers, in an effort to improve the samplers that were in use at that time and to address the need for accurate and speedy detection of Covid-19 in wastewater, in order to reduce the risks and spread of the virus. 

This led to the formation of the new company, Bio Data Networks (BDN), which was formed on 1st September 2020.

BDN then formed a collaboration with Dr Adam Roberts of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and funding was made available from the European Regional Development Fund. This enabled newly designed BDN samplers to be tested at the LSTM and the results of those tests were very encouraging.

In late February of 2021 BDN was invited to become part of the government’s Accelerated Capability Environment (ACE) and contracts were awarded to BDN which enabled further testing of the BDN technology. This relationship continues in 2022, in further trials for using WBE in reducing population health risks.

In June 2021, the BDN Board of Directors appointed a Chief Executive Officer, John Wakeman, to lead the company. The Board of Directors comprises Brian Neve, Andrew Singer, Rory Carter, and Lindsey Neve (Co-Founder).

Presently, BDN’s samplers are being tested in Care homes and university campuses, and there is interest from large companies to have the sensors placed in their offices. 

BDN’s team is working towards the further development of real-time sensors for use in detection of the Covid-19 virus and of many other diseases and problem markers such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The sensors will be utilised not only in wastewater but in environmental monitoring in rivers and estuaries and via air/aerosol sampling. 

Relationships have been formed with several leading universities in the UK and there is excitement about the potential for ongoing collaborations that will lead to further developments of the company, all of which promise very high global impact giving benefits to populations throughout the world.