Test being designed to provide rapid, point-of-care diagnosis within 30 minutes

Heat Biologics, Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company specialized in the development of novel therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines, including one for coronavirus COVID-19, today reported that it is collaborating with the University of Miami to develop a proprietary UM COVID-19 point-of-care diagnostic test.

Image/Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin

The new, patient-friendly test will require a simple pharyngeal throat swab to deliver on-the-spot results on a paper strip in under 30 minutes. In contrast, current tests for COVID-19 usually rely on the use of expensive thermal-cyclers, with results in five to six hours or require blood draws to detect antibodies, indicative of previous exposure. Preliminary research suggests the new test is specific to the novel coronavirus, with no cross-reaction to previous coronavirus subtypes. The test is designed to enable cost-effective manufacturing amenable for mass production and deployment around the world.

Sylvia Daunert, PharmD, MS, PhD, Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who along with Sapna Deo, MS, PhD, and Jean-Marc Zingg, PhD, both also faculty at the Miller School, developers of the test, stated, “Our lab has tremendous experience developing accurate and easily-usable tests for infectious diseases such as HPV and Zika. Unlike tests that detect antibodies (IgG and IgM method), which can take weeks to manifest, our test is being developed to utilize molecular recognition and amplification of the target virus. This should allow for much earlier detection-within a couple days of exposure-providing critical and time-sensitive information to help curb the spread of the disease.”

Dr. Daunert added, “Additionally, our test is designed to provide a read-out in a fraction of the time required for most other tests, has no technical hardware requirements, and offers high sensitivity and a simple binary paper readout that can tell the healthcare provider if the patient is positive for a disease within 30 minutes. I am very excited to collaborate with Heat Biologics in order to bring our expertise to bear in fighting this pandemic.”

Jeff Wolf, Chief Executive Officer of Heat Biologics, commented, “We are honored to work with Dr. Daunert and the University of Miami to develop this exciting new platform for early and quick diagnosis of COVID-19. Her lab has developed multiple bioassays against similar diseases, and we are eager to utilize these tools in the war against COVID-19. Importantly, we believe this point of care diagnostic will address many of the challenges facing existing tests, including time to readout and cost. We look forward to providing further updates on this platform in the near future.”