Duke’s one-hour coronavirus antibody test could be a ‘game-changer’

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As the world hunts for effective means for testing and screening populations for Covid-19, Duke University researchers have developed a test to detect antibodies for the virus – in less than an hour.

In partnership with private industry, researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore have developed a new blood test that will detect the presence of neutralizing antibodies for Covid-19. Many health officials have deemed antibody testing as a necessary metric to determine the actual spread of the virus. By identifying the amount of people that have antibodies, officials can more accurately predict how much of a population has been exposed – and may have developed immunity – to the virus.

The new test from Duke could greatly enhance the world’s response to the pandemic by offering a quicker, less burdensome testing solution.

“Our test can be used for contact-tracing, reservoir or intermediate animal tracking, assessment of herd immunity, longevity of protective immunity and efficacy of different vaccine candidates,” said Linfa Wang, director of Duke’s emerging infectious diseases program at the medical school. “It does not require a biosafety containment facility, which makes it immediately accessible to the global community, including many developing nations.”

The test is also unique in that it targets the presence of neutralizing antibodies – those specifically responsible for clearing the infection – which researchers say gives the test enhanced accuracy.

Typically, testing for neutralizing antibodies requires exposing the samples to live viruses and cells in a laboratory, a process that typically requires days of work. Duke’s new test relies instead on an inactive genetic material.

According to the university, study data under review by the academic journal Nature shows the test can “discriminate between different types of SARS virus with 100 percent specificity and 95-100 percent sensitivity.”

“This could be a game-changer in the field of Covid-19 investigation,” said Patrick Casey, Duke’s senior vice dean of research at the Singapore school.

The test was developed alongside GenScript Biotech Corporation, a New Jersey-based global drugmaker.

In addition to playing a part in proof-of-concept research and development, the company now has exclusive license to the test and plans to use its manufacturing capacity to begin mass production. Duke officials say GenScript is “interested in possible sublicense partners to increase capacity and market reach.”

Original Article Source: Triangle Business Journal