Academia Sinica yesterday said that it has synthesized monoclonal antibodies that can identify the protein of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which it said is an important step toward producing a rapid screening reagent for the virus.
The potential reagent, if successfully mass produced, would shorten the testing time for COVID-19 from about four hours to 15 to 20 minutes, significantly improving screening efficiency, the nation’s top academic research institution said in a statement on Facebook.
Yang An-suei (楊安綏), an Academia Sinica research fellow at the Genomics Research Center who headed the team that synthesized the antibodies, said that for rapid screening to work, the reagent should accurately identify the new coronavirus.
Screen grab from Academia Sinica’s Facebook page
The team produced 46 monoclonal antibodies in just 19 days, with each sample weighing at least 1mg, based on seven human coronavirus nucleocapsid protein antigens, Yang said.
One of the antibodies has demonstrated “perfect” efficiency in identifying the new coronavirus, because it does not react to other members of the coronavirus family, including those that cause SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome, Yang added.
Data about the antibodies would be placed on the COVID-19 platform the institute has built to share information with domestic academic and scientific research institutes to speed up the development of rapid screening kits, drugs and vaccines to combat the epidemic, Academia Sinica President James Liao (廖俊智) said.
Yang’s team achieved its goal two months ahead of schedule, Liao said.
Assisted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the research team would hold talks with several companies about the production of rapid screening kits based on the research results, Academia Sinica said.
If everything goes smoothly, mass production could begin soon after the Ministry of Health and Welfare verifies and approves the reagent, within the next three to four months, the institute said.
The disease has infected more than 100,000 people in more than 80 nations and territories, including Taiwan, and has killed more than 3,000 people since it was first reported in Wuhan, China, in December last year.
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