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Partnership Developing Faster, Sensitive Covid-19 Test

SARS-CoV-2 and cell

Scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 viruses emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. (NIAID, NIH)

4 May 2022. A collaboration between developers of protein analytics and test-strip diagnostics aims to create a quicker, more sensitive, easy-to-use Covid-19 detection test. Financial and intellectual property terms of the agreement between Alamar Biosciences Inc. in Fremont, California and Mologic Ltd. in Bedford, U.K. were not disclosed.

Alamar Biosciences and Mologic say they plan to develop the next generation of tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 viruses responsible for Covid-19 infections. New rapid tests are needed, say the companies, to provide greater sensitivity for identifying the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in specimen samples, particularly in low-resource regions, as well as prepare for future pandemics. Mologic already produces two tests for SARS-CoV-2 viruses, including a personal self-test for infections, with antibodies keyed to an antigen derived from SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids.

Mologic’s diagnostics use a process first developed by Paul Davis, a Mologic founder, who created a lateral flow technology in early home pregnancy tests that provide visible responses on treated paper test strips. The company says it has advanced the technology to quickly diagnose a range of conditions at the point of care with tests using synthesized protein reagents and nanoscale particles, connected to electronic systems for analysis. Davis is now Mologic’s chief scientist.

Alamar Bio specializes in proteomics or protein analytics, particularly for precision medicine, where diagnostics revealing a patient’s individual biomarkers or molecular indicators are needed to deliver effective therapies. A barrier to precision medicine, however, is the low concentration of many biomarker proteins in blood plasma samples. Alamar Bio says its technology is capable of detecting thousands of proteins in small microliter-sized plasma samples.

Detect difficult to treat cancers

The company says its technology first applies advances in high-throughput genomic sequencing and massive parallel analysis to increase the sensitivity of protein detection. Alamar Bio says it then designs engineered antibodies to zero-in on highly specific targets, including for liquid biopsies to detect some cancer targets considered difficult to treat. The company says its synthetic antibodies, called attobodies, can also be used in engineered cancer treatments, such as T-cells with chimeric antigen receptors, or bi-specific therapies.

In addition, says Alamar Bio, it can quickly develop attobodies for diagnostics, a feature that the companies say led to their collaboration on Covid-19 diagnostics. “We are very pleased with the increased sensitivity attainable with Alamar antibodies,” says Davis in a statement, “especially in view of the speed with which they can be developed.”

Davis adds, “Fast-track discovery and deployment of antibodies with the highest possible affinity and specificity will be the central pillar of this new pandemic preparedness, very much aligning with Mologic’s mission to better enable humanity to cope with the long-term presence of Covid-19.”

Mologic’s mission recently evolved as a result of its acquisition in July 2021 by Global Access Health, a social enterprise for developing new, effective, and easy-to-use diagnostics in low-resource regions of the world. A social enterprise balances profit-making activities against social impacts. Global Access Health combines Mologic with the not-for-profit organization Global Access Diagnostics established in 2020. The $41 million transaction was financed by philanthropic and investment funds, led by the Soros Economic Development Fund and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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