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Abbott Laboratories develop new serology test to fight COVID-19

Mounir Jamil

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Abbott Laboratories develop new serology test to fight COVID-19

Abbott Laboratories is an American multinational medical devices and healthcare company with headquarters in Abbott Park, Illinois, United States. As part of its latest offerings to the market, and in light of the current COVID-19 Pandemic, they have developed a new serology test that is directed at identifying individuals that are infected with the virus and who may have developed an immunity to it. Its most recent antibody test is made to detect the IgG antibody, which is similar to its first antibody test that received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) last month.

Roche, the Swiss diagnostics giant received the go-ahead earlier last week from the agency for its antibody test and they similarly plan on producing kits somewhere in the “high double-digit millions,” this month.

On Monday, Abbott Laboratories claimed that its latest SARS-CoV-2 IgG assay has the ability of 99.6%, translating to a very low possibility of false negatives, and a sensitivity of 100%, indicating improvements in not giving false negatives, especially in patients that have been tested 14 days after they first started showing symptoms. In comparison, Roche’s antibody test has the specificity of 99.8% and a sensitivity of 100%, also when used on samples that were taken 14 days after the confirmation of the infection.

BDI, another major company in the field, has launched similar tests however lacking the EUA designation but under an earlier FDA policy. Also, last week, the agency strengthened its requirements for COVID-19 antibody tests during questions about the accuracy and validity of some of the tests that are already present in the market that have not undergone an agency review.

Abbott Laboratories mentioned that regarding their latest tests, they are working with virology labs to validate the testing results and are installing an additional system that helps in aiding with large scale and reliable antibody testing worldwide.

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MedTech

New COVID-19 test using T Cells

Mounir Jamil

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New COVID-19 test using T Cells

Indoor Biotechnologies, a global immunodiagnostics and biotechnology company based in Cardiff in the UK, was recently awarded funding from Innovate UK to develop a COVID-19 test using T cells. Successfully identifying individuals that have already been infected and have immunity would allow society to safely return to normal. In addition, reliable testing methods are needed since the symptoms of COVID-19 vary from person to person, with some not even displaying symptoms.

A potential method for a COVID-19 test is done by searching for specific antibodies in the blood samples. Several antibody tests are available, but doubts are present regarding the reliability of knowing if a person has gained immunity.

Long-term protection from viruses doesn’t only come from antibodies, but also from other cells of the immune system such as T cells, that play a vital role in eradicating and controlling viral infections. The latest test proposed by Indoor Biotechnologies focuses on the T cells rather than antibodies. If it is successful, the COVID-19 test or Simple Cellular Immunity Test (SCIT) will be able to identify the presence of T cells that cause COVID-19 from a single tube of blood and within 24 hours. 

This method has the ability to be more sensitive and more reliable at determining immunity than antibody testing. In order to validate this, it will be tested on individuals that already carried the virus and have developed antibodies. The COVID-19 test is also very valuable during vaccine development in order to help identify whether an adequate immune response has been created to protect people against coronavirus, and for testing how long the immune response lasts.

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COVID-19 screening app that analyzes breathing, coughing and voice patterns

Adnan Kayyali

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COVID-19 screening app that analyzes breathing, coughing and voice patterns

Novoic, a startup founded by Oxford and Cambridge researchers, is developing a COVID-19 screening app that can screen people for COVID-19 by listening to the sound of their cough, aptly named “Coughvid”. The company that previously used speech analysis technology to detect cognitive impairments and diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, is now turning its attention to COVID-19.

The app works by recording a person’s coughing, breathing, voice patterns and analyzes them using a machine learning algorithm. Additionally, the app collects users’ demographic and medical history data and asks if a participant has been tested for COVID-19.

Currently the COVID-19 screening app has only a 70% accuracy rate, but the developers are far from done. To ‘teach’ the AI, Novoic will ask 1 million volunteers to “donate their cough” so the algorithm can be refined into a reliable screening process to distinguish between infected and non-infected coughs more decisively

“Different people’s voices of course sound different from each other, including when they’re healthy,” explains Emil Fristed, co-founder and CEO of Novoic. “To build accurate algorithms that work for everyone, we need a lot of data, which is why we are calling upon the public to step forward. If we capture enough cough sounds, we believe this could be the answer to cheap, accessible testing.

Due to the lack of respiratory sound data sets available to researchers, collecting these samples may help further diagnostic research beyond COVID-19. “The data will be stored on University servers and be used solely for research purposes,” said Cambridge University.

To assure those with fears of privacy and data security, the company said that user locations will only be known when actively using the app.

The researchers say however that the COVID-19 screening app is not a substitute for a medical exam. It is made to bolster the capabilities of mass testing in a non-intrusive, social distancing- friendly way.

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MedTech

COVAX Facility – 75 Countries, 1 Team

Mounir Jamil

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COVAX Facility - 75 Countries, 1 Team (1)

So far, about 75 countries and nations have expressed an increased interest in protecting their own populations and those of other nations by joining the COVAX Facility, a newly designed mechanism that ensures rapid, equitable, and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines all around the world.

The 75 countries will be financing the vaccines from their own public finance budgets, and will be partnering with up with 90 lower income countries that could benefit greatly from voluntary donations to Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, mentioned that COVAX Facility is the only truly global solution for the current pandemic.  

The goal of the COVAX Facility is to deliver two billion doses of effective, safe vaccines that have succeeded in regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification. The vaccines are set to be divided equally amongst participating countries, proportional to their populations. The COVAX Facility will also have extra doses for emergency and humanitarian use, including dealing with severe outbreaks before they spiral out of control. 

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