COVID-19 antibody test, manufactured in Rochester, could help find vaccine


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — With over 1.7 million coronavirus tests conducted, researchers are looking at a different kind of test, one that can tell who has recovered from COVID-19 — an important element to finding out who can go back to work.

Ortho Clinical Diagnostics’ COVID-19 antibody testing kits are ready to launch, and are are being manufactured right here in Rochester, with the hopes of helping researchers better understand how the virus spreads.

Currently COVID-19 testing is done using a molecular test. This tells if the virus is currently in a host- but not if someone has had the virus and built immunity.

That’s where Ortho Clinical Diagnostics Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Chockalingam Palaniappan comes in.

“We want to know who it is that that’s infected and who is not infected. and who has built immunity,” said Palaniappan.

This immunity is measured through the blood-based VITROS antibody test, being manufactured at Ortho’s Global Center of Excellence for Research and development in Rochester.

It looks for a person’s antibodies, the proteins the immune systems makes to attack the COVID-19 virus. It doesn’t look for a current infection, instead it detects who has had the virus in the past, whether they knew it or not.

“As you start mounting an immune respond, your body puts out a lot of antibodies in your blood stream, the measure of antibodies is done by antibody testing,” said Palaniappan.

This is the VITROS antibody test. It can run on lab equipment already installed in more than 1,000 hospitals and labs through the nation and process 150 tests in an hour.

“We have taken a small virus particle and we have put it in a test tube and the question we are asking is, when you mix it with a blood sample, does the anti bodies that you have mounted against the virus bind to that particle,” said Palaniappan.

The test will not only help researchers see how the virus spreads through a population, but also has the potential to help create future vaccines.

“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. You antibodies, because now you beat the disease could end up saving someone else’s life,” said Palaniappan.

Developers are planning to have this test delivered to high impact areas within the next week and hope to see it in hospitals across the nation in as little as two months.

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