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Danish scientists have developed a highly sensitive COVID-19 antibody test


The new antibody test has been developed from scratch in close collaboration between Rigshospitalet, the University of Copenhagen and Novo Nordisk A/S, with support from the Carlsberg Foundation and the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The test can make a major contribution to monitoring the transmission of COVID-19 during the pandemic and the antibody development at the individual level and in society as a whole, states the researchers.

The final trials of the test have just ended, but a decision on how the new test will be utilized has yet to be taken.

“We have been able to test out all kinds of blood sera from minimally to maximally infected patients and identify that it picks up with 98% sensitivity the fact that you actually are positive, and with 99% specificity, meaning the risk of actually having a false-positive that you think you have had infection, but you did not have the infection,” explains Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Executive Vice President, Head of R&D and Chief Science Officer, Novo Nordisk A/S.

DKK 4.8 million grant

The Foundation awarded Peter Garred a grant of DKK 4.8 million for the antibody test project The Copenhagen SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Testing Initiative.

“The overall goal of the test is to ensure that we are self-sufficient here in Denmark and that we know every detail about the test. That way, we are sure that it has high quality and can change the test if the virus starts to mutate and that we can monitor responses to a vaccine when that becomes available. But we have also developed the test further, so we can show in detail what type of antibodies are formed against the virus, when they disappear and measure which responses actually result in immunity,” explains Peter Garred, Professor of Clinical Molecular Medicine at Rigshospitalet and the University of Copenhagen.

A supply chain that works

The overall goal of the project has been to become self-sufficient in Denmark. The researchers have therefore chosen reagents for the tests that are always easily available.

“We know that there has been a lack of reagents. We know that there has been a lack of all the different tools that can be used, and medicine for instance. I think what we have learned from this COVID-19 pandemic is that you have to rely a little bit on your own resources. And this means that you need to have a supply chain that works. It has been very important that we can make our own tests. Not only antibody tests but also other types of tests. So we can help the population,” says Peter Garred.

“Testing populations over and over again to fight the COVID-19 pandemic will be critically important”

There are no plans to commercialize the tests. Instead Novo Nordisk is currently evaluating how the tests can help on a larger scale, both within Denmark and internationally since, according to Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, testing populations over and over again to fight the COVID-19 pandemic will be critically important.

Image of antibodies blocking a virus from entering a body cell: iStock