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This COVID-19 Super Antibody Test Could Provide New Insights Into Immunity

The facts on Quanterix's test

COVID-19 antibody tests have been the subject of scrutiny since their arrival, but they still represent an important tool in understanding population health. Molecular tests have become the top method of identifying cases of COVID-19. One scientist thinks we should be looking at using a combination of antibody tests, antigen tests, and molecular RNA tests to better understand who has COVID-19 and whether or not they’re actively recovering.

Dr. David Walt is one of the co-founders of genetic sequencing technology giant Illumina and Quanterix, a company that makes technology for detecting biomarkers. He is also co-director of the MGB Center for COVID Innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston. When COVID-19 struck, he had to close his lab at Harvard University due to the pandemic. He petitioned to reopen, so he and a team could work on a super antibody test that would enable him to better understand immune response in COVID-19 patients. The request was approved.

The test uses a technology that he invented back in 2007 called SIMOA, or single molecule array; he cofounded Quanterix in order to commercialize it, and now sits on the company’s board. The test separates out antibodies and other molecules into microwells: tiny little reservoirs that make them more easy to quantify. The technique also uses immunofluorescence to identify antibodies. Where a more traditional immunofluorescent antibody test reflects how much antibody is in the sample by how brightly the liquid lights up, the SIMOA method illuminates antibodies in a blood sample like stars in the sky.

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