'Fast and accurate' coronavirus antibody tests developed by UK scientists

4 May 2020, 09:28

Up to 36,000 tests could be carried out a day according to the company
Up to 36,000 tests could be carried out a day according to the company. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A "fast and accurate" coronavirus antibody test has been developed by researchers in Edinburgh, although interest from Europe means the NHS could miss out on the kit.

Scientists for blood-screening company Quotient have developed a new machine that can test whether people have immunity to Covid-19 after building up antibodies to the virus.

The firm claims each machine can deliver up to 3,000 tests a day and produce results, with 99.8 per cent accuracy, within 35 minutes.

With 12 screening machines currently available, meaning a total output of 36,000 tests per day, and a further 20 expected to be produced by the end of the year, the company expects demand to be high with parties already showing interest in Europe.

Quotient is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to begin talks so that the NHS might be able to benefit from the tests.

On Friday, the company received European regulatory approval for its MosaiQ serological screening machines with 100 per cent sensitivity and 99.8 per cent specificity, meaning there is a low chance of a misread or "false positive."

Chief executive Franz Walt, who was managing director of a laboratory that developed the first diagnostic test for Sars in 2003, said: "We are truly proud to have developed such a fast and accurate test.

"This is an outstanding performance by our teams in both Edinburgh and Switzerland. We now want to make sure that we can help as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

"We have strong roots in the UK and want to speak to ministers there so MosaiQ can be used in the amazing national effort to tackle coronavirus and relaunch the economy.

"We realise ministers and the NHS are incredibly busy but are keen to talk given the strong interest from across Europe in the product."

Ed Farrell, chief operating officer at Quotient's Edinburgh office, added: "We're incredibly proud of all our work here in Scotland and Switzerland.

"We've got such a rich history here and we hope we can now make a difference at this challenging time."

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

The UK Government claims it has laboratory capability to test for coronavirus immunity, however labs are currently being used for survey testing of existing blood samples and the capacity is not known.

It is also attempting to develop home testing kits, rather than requiring analysis in laboratories, but so far these have proved unreliable.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Health Protection Scotland, with key partners, explore all options around new antibody tests as they become available on the market.

"The Scottish Government is working closely with the UK Government to ensure that everyone is able to access new antibody tests when they become available.

"It is essential that any new tests are reliable, and time is needed to undertake rigorous evaluation so that there is confidence that tests are accurate."