Futureproofing the Fight Against COVID-19: Discovery likened to having “eyes amongst the atoms in the fight against the scourge of COVID-19”
A breakthrough in containing COVID-19 and helping normal life resume has been revealed by scientists in a leading journal. The new assays called; rapid, affinity-based neutralisation tests (rANTs), can simply and rapidly reveal if a person is immune to the virus, something which is challenging, time consuming and error prone using existing tests. They could also reveal if the vaccines currently in use will be rendered ineffective against emerging new strains of COVID. Both are critical requirements for life returning to normal after the pandemic.
The new twin weapons in the fight against the disease will also be important for the effective operation of coronavirus passports, a policy under consideration in government. Current testing for immunity from COVID-19 looks only at the level of antibodies in the blood, whether from vaccination or previous infection.
Dr Nicholas Matheson, of the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease said;
“Tests that can quickly identify whether people have antibodies which neutralise Covid-19 could play an important role in our recovery from the pandemic. We don’t yet know how long people stay immune to COVID-19 after infection or vaccination, and we don’t know how effective current vaccines will be against future mutations. Rapid neutralization assays could help answer these vital questions.”
The new approach, pioneered by Fluidic Analytics, a Cambridge University biotech spin out, identifies precisely how those antibodies interact with the virus. It reveals if they will stop its notorious spike protein docking with human cells, the essential step leading to infection, and so whether a person can be certain of immunity. If they’re not immune, a booster shot, or new vaccine could be administered. The new test requires only a few drops of blood, does not involve the intricate, laborious and time consuming use of cell culture or live viruses, and produces results inside one hour. The practicality of the approach also makes it possible the test could be carried out in a high street pharmacy or vaccination centre.
Andrew Lynn, CEO of Fluidic Analytics, said;
“This is like having eyes amongst the atoms for scientists fighting the scourge of COVID-19. For the first time, we could have a practical way to quickly be certain whether someone is immune to the virus and or one of its variants, and that’s a major advance in helping us all get back to the lives we love but have lost for far too long now."
“We’re delighted our work can support the brilliant scientists and medics who have created the vaccines which are so important for our future, and help them stay ahead of the virus. We’re very proud to be playing our part in the global fight against COVID-19.”
Fluidic Analytics’ research has been fully peer reviewed and is published in the internationally renowned American Chemical Society (ACS) Infectious Diseases journal. It’s viewed as so important in combating COVID-19 that the paper has been selected as Editor’s Choice, and promoted across other ACS publications. The accolade is designed to draw attention from scientists around the world to work deemed to be highly significant and of wide public interest.
Fluidic Analytics—recently named as one of Cambridge’s top five startups by the Sunday Times—has pioneered a revolutionary process to assess at a molecular level how the body’s immune system responds to infection. The key advance is being able to quantify how strongly and frequently proteins, including antibodies and viral proteins, interact with each other directly in blood. The fight against COVID-19 is just the beginning for Fluidic Analytics’ pioneering technology, available to scientists and clinical researchers in a remarkably small and affordable instrument known as the Fluidity One-W Serum.
Fluidic Analytics has reacted to the pandemic by offering use of its machines to a number of Covid-19 researchers for free. The company has also launched a service to enable researchers to access its technology even when COVID-19 restrictions mean they can’t perform experiments in their own labs.
The impact of Fluidic Analytics’ new approach has already been felt beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also helped a team of scientists discover how four drugs being trialled to treat Alzheimer’s function, allowing them to understand which is likely to be the most effective. Additionally, it has the potential to help develop new generations of treatments for a wide range of the most feared diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other infectious diseases beyond COVID-19.
Fluidic Analytics also runs an annual programme to give free access to the technology to young scientists with particularly promising research projects. Details, including the science of the pioneering COVID-19 work can be found here, and the full publication can be found here.
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Photos of Andrew Lynn (dark hair, smiling, leaning on instrument) and the Fluidity One-W Serum are available for the media to use. You are also welcome to use video or audio from a two minute interview with Andrew here.
Published on 26 April 2021