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Canadian company developing blood test to detect COVID-19 immunity

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A Canadian company is working to develop a blood test that would detect whether someone is immune to COVID-19, the first of its kind in the country. 

PlantForm Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company based out of Guelph Ont., says they’re working with Canadian and international partners to develop Canada’s first antibody test for COVID-19 immunity and they’ve applied to the National Research Council Canada (NRC) for funding.

“Unlike most COVID-19 diagnostic tests, which test for genetic material to see if someone has been exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the PlantForm collaboration is focused on producing reagents for serology tests that will identify antibodies in the blood that indicate immunity to the virus,” a news release from the company states.

PlantForm is working with Cape Bio Pharms in South Africa and Canadian partners Inno-3B and Microbix Biosystems Inc. to develop the serology tests to detect antibodies specific to COVID-19.

“Canada does not currently have a blood test to detect COVID-19 immunity,” said PlantForm CEO Dr. Don Stewart in a statement.

“We are developing a test that will identify the convalescent immune population, which is critical to disease monitoring and control. It will increase the reliability of data about the progression of COVID-19 and allow public health agencies to accurately determine when people have become immune to the disease and are therefore able to return to work and other social care duties.”

In addition to the immunity test, the company is also in the process of developing antibodies to treat patients with COVID-19 and protect healthcare workers.

They’re working with Inno-3B and other national and international partners to produce “therapeutic antibodies for infected patients and in prophylactic applications for first responders and other health care personnel who require immediate protection.”

Once developed, a drug containing the antibodies could be given to a healthcare worker on the front line to make them temporarily immune to the virus.

While the timeline for these tests and treatments is unknown, Plantform says their manufacturing system (called vivoXPRESS®) allows for a rapid development and manufacturing timelines (weeks instead of months), unlimited scalability and ultra-low-cost production.

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