Czech Scientists Launch New Test For Protective Antibodies Against Covid-19

The Czech Academy of Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Prague-based Immunotech for the production and distribution of a newly-developed test for protective antibodies against the coronavirus. Photo Credit: Freepik / Illustrative Photo. 

Czech Rep., Sep 8 (BD) – Czech scientists have developed an innovative in-vitro diagnostic (IVD) test for antibodies against Covid-19 that could be crucial in the international fight against SARS-CoV-2.

The Institute of Biotechnology (IBT) and the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB Prague), both part of the Czech Academy of Sciences, have signed a licensing agreement with Prague-based Immunotech, a subsidiary of Beckman Coulter, for the production and distribution of this newly developed IVD test. This test could provide reliable answers to some key unknown questions in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic: how long does vaccination last? How many doses of the vaccine are needed? How high is the level of protection against SARS-CoV-2?

Current IVD tests are able to detect the general level of antibodies present in someone’s body, which can be developed after contracting the disease or from vaccination. However, they cannot easily say whether these antibodies are protective, virus-neutralising antibodies that provide immunity to the subject, without several days of further expensive laboratory work. The new test is able to determine accurately whether detected antibodies provide protection against Covid-19, with the potential for significant savings of time and money. An easy diagnostic test for the level of protective, virus-neutralising antibodies in the blood of each patient could be crucial in controlling the spread of the virus. 

“The main problem up till now has been that not all the antibodies in the patient’s blood following contact with the coronavirus or its spike protein are capable of directly neutralizing the virus and thus stopping infection of cells in the body,” said Cyril Bařinka, head of the Laboratory of Structural Biology at IBT. “Existing tests can only measure the overall signal of all antibodies recognizing the spike protein, including those that can’t neutralize the virus.”

After different kinds of laboratory tests involving animals, the researchers found that most of the antibodies did not provide protection against the virus. “We discovered that only one of the antibodies had any real protective effect, and it successfully neutralized not only the original SARS-CoV-2 but also other known coronavirus variants such as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta,” said Jan Weber, head of the virology group at IOCB Prague. 

According to the medical team, the new IVD test is also much cheaper, faster and safer than the antibody testing procedures used up to now.

Immunotech expressed interest in purchasing the new IDV test at the beginning of September, and has now signed a licensing agreement with IOCB Prague and IBT, allowing the company to proceed with industrial production of the test, with the hope of bringing it to market in the near future. 

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