Already working on a vaccine for COVID-19, a Triangle drugmaker now says that it is developing a test for the disease that that will produce results in 30 minutes.
Morrisville-based Heat Biologics (Nasdaq: HTBX) has announced a collaboration with the University of Miami to develop a point-of-care diagnostic test for COVID-19, a potential solution to the ongoing national struggle for better testing and surveillance of the pandemic.
Heat had previously announced that it was working on developing a coronavirus vaccine in partnership with the university.
“We have a close collaboration with the university of Miami and they are leaders in the creation of these bio-assay tests,” Heat Biologics CEO Jeff Wolf says. “The idea was to really leverage the work that we’re doing with COVID-19 in the vaccine space into the diagnostic space.”
Wolf says the test requires just a throat swab and will deliver results on a paper strip in the half-hour window. Currently, most on-the-market tests for the virus require thermal-cyclers or blood tests – which result in at best five-to-six hour results and often at a much more expensive margin.
The test is essentially tailor-made to overcome the numerous issues surrounding testing that have become national news in recent weeks – delays in the testing supply chain have put the country well behind where it should be as far as the number of people being tested daily, officials have said.
“It’s simple, effective, portable,” Wolf says. “It avoids any sort of cold chains in supply, it’s stable at room temperature, easy field implementation – you don’t need any major machines to run this test – it’s rapid and efficient.”
He says if the test is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the company would be licensing production out to a third-party, but that it is designed for cost-effective manufacturing and mass production.
Not only would the test be an help to public health across the nation, it is also an opportunity for Heat. Wolf says the University of Miami’s team has been specializing in working on these kind of point-of-care tests for years and the company was honored to be working with them.
“We believe it would fit in very well,” he says. “Our goal is to get it out there as rapidly as possible.”
Wolf was not willing to provide any public guidance on how long the test might take to finish development, but stressed the company hoped to “work as aggressively and rapidly as possible” as well as throw as many resources possible toward development – including, hopefully, federal funding.
“A big determinant of speed will be the amount of resources that are made available to us,” he says. “If we had a lot of money for this, we could do this a lot faster.”