DOST, UP, Toronto pursue Covid-19 test kits development

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said it expects a new testing kit for Covid-19 infection to be developed shortly.

DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said the new kit will be a cell-based immunoassay for serologic testing. “There are three types of tests available. The polymerase chain reaction testing and antigen testing can both test for active infection. Serological testing tests the antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) and can detect whether a person was previously infected with Covid-19,” he explained.

Dela Pena said the project is being supported by the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) with funding worth close to PHP5 million.

The DOST-PCHRD dubbed as “Development of a Cell-Based Immunoassay for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) Serologic Testing,” is led by Dr. Fresthel Monica Climacosa of the University of the Philippines-Manila, together with collaborators from the University of Toronto, Canada.

Guiditta Gelera of PCHRD said the kit being developed would not need electricity. “Results can be seen with the naked eye. This kit is for health care professionals’ use since this requires blood sample,” she explained.

Gelera said the technology is scalable at the moment. Dela Pena for his part said the immunoassay method will be using engineered yeast cells to detect antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

He said the project team had already made significant progress in using a cell-surface engineered yeast in an agglutination (clumping)-based immunoassay for the detection of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in human serum samples.

“This could be used in remote areas which lack sophisticated laboratory equipment and infrastructure,” he said, adding that it would benefit communities, researchers, and clinicians determined to address local and global burdens of Covid-19, specifically in improving access to diagnostic tools for mass disease surveillance.