Coronavirus: Pharma giant readies five-minute test, may bring it to India, too

Kaunain Sheriff M
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This platform, introduced in 2014, is currently being used for testing for Influenza A and B in American labs. (File Photo)

Global pharma giant Abbott, which on Friday announced it has received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a portable device that can tell if someone is COVID-19 positive in five minutes, said it plans to “bring more tests forward with the intent to get them to more people in more places around the world”.

To a question on whether Abbott planned to bring the test to India, a company spokesperson told The Indian Express, “We are developing COVID-19 tests across our Abbott testing platforms (including laboratory and lateral flow tests) and plan to bring more tests forward with the intent to get them to more people in more places around the world. We are working to produce as many tests as possible, running our production 24/7 and will expand manufacturing capacity when we can.”

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Currently, the ID NOW COVID-19 test is available only in the United States as this is where most of the company’s ID NOW instruments are in use, the Abbott spokesperson said. This platform, introduced in 2014, is currently being used for testing for Influenza A and B in American labs.

It is small, lightweight (6.6 lbs) and portable (the size of a small toaster) — and uses a unique isothermal nucleic acid amplification technology, which provides molecular results in minutes.

The test will deliver positive results for COVID-19 in approximately five minutes, and negative results in 13 minutes.

The device, which Abbott claims is the “fastest available molecular point-of-care test” for the detection of COVID-19, is its second test to receive emergency use authorization by the FDA. Last week, the company launched the m2000 RealTime SARS-CoV-2 EUA test which identifies the virus by targeting small amounts and amplifying it until there’s enough for detection. Between the two platforms, Abbott expects to produce about 5 million tests per month.

Explained

Very fast and definitive

The Abbott device will produce a diagnosis in just over five minutes; the conventional RTPCR test kits currently in use across the world take almost a day to provide results. Crucially, Abbott’s ID NOW COVID-19 test gives results fast like the antibodies test kits — however, while a negative result does not rule out infection, Abbott’s kits, which use RNA amplification technology, give definitive results.

In the US, Abbott will make the ID NOW COVID-19 tests available next week to healthcare providers — where the ID platform instruments are already in use. In a statement, the company said that it “expects to ramp up manufacturing to deliver 50,000 tests per day”.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic will be fought on multiple fronts, and a portable molecular test that offers results in minutes adds to the broad range of diagnostic solutions needed to combat this virus,” Robert B Ford, president and chief operating officer, Abbott, said. “With rapid testing on ID NOW, healthcare providers can perform molecular point-of-care testing outside the traditional four walls of a hospital in outbreak hotspots,” he said.

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