Roche, together with its subsidiary TIB Molbiol, has developed three new Research Use Only (RUO) test kits to help detect the mutations in new Omicron variant (B.1.1.529).

The three new tests include VirSNip SARS Spike ins214EPE (RUO), VirSNiP SARS-CoV-2 Spike S371L S373P (RUO), VirSNip SARS Spike E484A (RUO).

The tests are intended for use on Roche’s LightCycler and cobas z 480 analysers.

First identified in South Africa, Omicron is a newly emerged SARS-CoV-2 variant that has been recognised as a variant of concern (VOC), by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The new test kits have been developed by TIB Molbiol, a German biotech firm recently acquired by the company’s Diagnostics business.

TIB Molbiol provides oligonucleotides used in life science research, medical diagnostics, product quality assessment and environmental analysis applications.

Roche Diagnostics CEO Thomas Schinecker said: “The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be an evolving and complex situation, and Roche is committed to responding to healthcare’s biggest challenges.

“The teams at TIB Molbiol have worked around the clock since the new variant emerged, and today we are able to offer a test that can specifically identify the novel B.1.1.529 Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant to help better understand its spread and behaviour.

“It’s critical to identify Omicron quickly and accurately, which will help inform ongoing research – including the further development of therapeutics and vaccines – and potentially stop or slow down the advance of this new variant.”

Roche said that the VirSNiP variant kits are designed to provide differentiation between unique mutations present within the Omicron variant compared to other variants.

The tests deploy quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) technology to improve variant detection and viral research.

According to Roche, the new three tests are among the first to address various unique mutations of the newly discovered Omicron variant.

In January 2020, TIB Molbiol and Roche delivered their first research use only SARS-CoV-2 detection test, only days after the virus was first sequenced.