New Zealand start-up company provides fast-track solution for COVID-19 immunity tests

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand, May 23 (Xinhua) -- A New Zealand start-up company is providing fast-track solution to reveal a person's immunity to COVID-19, company executives told Xinhua on Saturday.

As countries look to restart their economy and re-embrace global exchange after the COVID-19 lockdown, they wish to only permit safe movement through borders, international and regional, for those who are immune to COVID-19.

New Zealand based Bio-science start-up Orbis Diagnostics owns a proprietary platform technology which was originally developed for measurement of progesterone in milk at extremely low concentrations. The company soon realized its technology could well be applied for COVID-19 tests that reveal a person's immunity to the virus.

"It will detect whether a person has immunity to SARS-CoV2 not whether they are currently infected," said Emerald Scofield, operations manager of Orbis.

The technology platform developed by Orbis was designed to be operated by non-technically trained staff working in open-air environments measuring large numbers of individuals quickly and inexpensively. These performance characteristics are similarly applicable to community-based screening in the COVID-19 scenario.

"Orbis' capability to assess immunity at scale will also help prioritise those individuals who first should receive hoped-for future vaccines, monitor actual conferred immunity, and inform timing of booster shots or selection of alternative vaccines for those showing insufficient immunity," said Brent Ogilvie, chief executive officer of Orbis.

It is understood that rapid strip antibody tests are not sophisticated enough to reveal the extent of a person's immunity to COVID-19. Such tests only return a simple positive or negative result for circulating antibodies, which only indicates whether an individual has been infected.

The company is now adapting its immunoassay system for identification at scale from a finger prick of blood. It is planned that the quantifiable antibody status could be detected in 5-15 minutes.

With a market ready product within a year, Orbis anticipates that its technology could re-enable the movement of people during and post pandemic through identifying those who have immunity and those who are infectious, thus aiding a return to normality. Enditem

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