A new antibody test platform launched by clinical research firm hVIVO could prove “transformational” in the UK’s post-coronavirus return to work, according to an executive at its parent company.

hVIVO recently announced it is capable of analysing 3,000 blood samples per day to detect Covid-19 antibodies, which indicate previous infection with the virus, and that it could do this more reliably and accurately than “finger prick” testing kits.

The London-based firm is offering its MosaiQ test to a host of businesses in the UK and Ireland looking to get their staff tested for immunity — including investment banks, law firms, construction companies and those in the retail sector.

Cathal Friel, executive chairman at hVIVO’s parent company Open Orphan, said: “We think it’s going to be transformational because some reports say up to 17% of the Greater London population may already have antibodies and, as such, for potentially a year or two will likely be protected from infection, and therefore will likely not catch Covid-19 or spread it.

“A lot of this 17% will not be aware that they have symptoms, as research has said that up to 80% of all people infected may be asymptomatic. This means that a lot of sectors may be able to get 17% of their staff back at work, which could be hugely beneficial.

Helping to get the country back to work and protecting people’s jobs is a huge motivating factor for us in rapidly making tests available to as many people as possible through channel partners, and also by testing on behalf of large employer groups.

“We think it will be hugely important as it gives an impetus to do something and move forward, as opposed to the current limbo where people are not sure what to do.”


What is the hVIVO antibody test?

The MosaiQ test is being manufactured by Swiss healthcare firm Quotient — which announced its fully automated testing system in April, and partnered with hVIVO on 11 May.

The test uses microarrays to analyse a patient’s DNA sample and detect the presence of antibodies called IgG (immunoglobulin G) and IgM (immunoglobulin M) that are specific to Covid-19.

hVIVO says the MosaiQ test has received a CE certification for use across Europe, and can return results within 48 hours.

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Antibody tests are used to detect the body’s immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (Credit: Fusion Medical Animation)

The test requires a full blood draw by a doctor or nurse, and needs to be carried out in a clinic — but hVIVO claims it is more accurate than “finger prick” tests, which the UK MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) recently advised companies not to provide until they have been properly validated.

Adam French, director of laboratory operations at hVIVO, said the firm’s antibody test demonstrated 100% sensitivity and 99.8% specificity — the two indicators of testing accuracy — across 161 samples.

“The tests are run out of our state-of-the-art virology laboratory in East London by a team of highly trained specialists led by me, and we believe we are the only party able to offer testing from a bespoke virology laboratory,” he added.


UK antibody testing

As well as benefitting numerous industries by allowing employees to return to work, Friel believes antibody testing is an “essential step” in protecting jobs and businesses at this time.

“We know there are a lot of employees all around the world, and people in general, who are quite scared about catching Covid-19 and, therefore, having access to antibody testing will be very reassuring,” he said.

“Hopefully, this means that some people may be able to get back to work, including many people who are not able to earn an income at present — which would be great.

hvivo antibody test cathal friel
Cathal Friel is the executive chairman of Irish pharma firm Open Orphan, which owns hVIVO (Credit: Cathal Friel)

“We have a great relationship with the manufacturer of our instrument, Quotient, and are confident that they will work with us to ensure we can expand, meeting the demand for testing as required. We are keen to make testing available to as many people as possible.”

On 4 June, hVIVO made its antibody test available to employers in the UK and Ireland looking to test their staff on demand, or a continuous basis.

It is also looking to set up partnerships with GP networks, nursing services, private hospitals and clinics to make the MosaiQ test more widely available, and said any interested parties should direct their enquiries to covidclear@hvivo.com.