While officials estimate that we’re still 12-18 months away from developing a viable vaccine for COVID-19, one Rochester company has shot ahead of the curve.
Rochester-based company Ortho Clinical Diagnostics has received fast-tracked approval from the FDA to start developing an antibody test for COVID-19. This emergency authorization was approved in order to help the estimated 6,210 hospitals across the country struggling to diagnose and treat the symptoms of those with COVID-19.
By testing antibodies in the blood, Ortho Diagnostics hopes that medical professionals will be able to identify those who currently have COVID-19 and those who have already had it and developed an immunity. It might also help determine if individuals can start engaging in previous plans, like moving house or visiting the grocery store more than once every two weeks.
It’s Ortho’s hope that this test can also determine who can be permitted to go back to work, especially if they have immunity to the virus.
The test is called the Total Antibody Test and Ortho Clinical Diagnostics reports that the automated test kits should become available for widespread use in the next few weeks.
Ortho Diagnostics also explains that the antibody test might also be able to help screen plasma donations among various donors for convalescent plasma therapy. These donations might enable critically ill patients to recover more quickly since these antibodies can help individuals fight back against the virus. In the long-term, this test might even be able to help with vaccine development efforts.
“When you see the antibodies in your system and you no longer have the virus at some point, now you can become a plasma donor […] now you beat the disease could end up saving someone else’s life,” explains Ortho’s Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Chockalingam Palaniappan.
So far, a small number of tests have already been sent to areas struggling with COVID-19 cases. These high priority areas might able to utilize these tests to implement increased rates of testing among uncertain individuals. As social distancing efforts persist, however, flattening the curve has proven to be working in some areas.
For example, San Fransisco has seen positive movement when it comes to flattening the curve. It helps that the city was one of the first big cities to implement social distancing policies, with the mayor enacting a shelter in place order as early as March 17. As rates of infection slow, such automated tests like the one being developed by Ortho Diagnostics might be able to jump-start the economy in these areas sooner than later.
In the meantime, countless people are still practicing quarantine behaviors throughout the country, Rochester included. While 40% of online shoppers buy goods online multiple times each month, these numbers will continue to surge until widespread testing and vaccine efforts are developed.
“We remain committed to helping laboratories deliver fast, accurate, reliable results to healthcare professionals, patients and the researchers developing the long-term, sustainable management of this disease,” notes Chris Smith, the chief executive officer at Ortho.
Ortho Clinical Diagnostics explains that they will launch a full production of antibody testing kits in the coming weeks in the hopes of developing millions of antibody kits as the month progresses.