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April 2, 2020

VTT begins development of rapid test for coronavirus

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has started work on a new Covid-19 test based on the detection of viral antigens in nasopharyngeal samples.

By Chloe Kent

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has started work on a new Covid-19 test based on the detection of viral antigens in nasopharyngeal samples.

The development of the test is being carried out in collaboration with the Meilahti Vaccine Research Center, a joint research facility run by the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital (HUS).

The test is designed to be performed by healthcare professionals, with results delivered in 15 minutes or less. VTT also hopes to make the new test considerably more cost-efficient than existing testing methods.

Antibody development has already commenced and the first versions of the new tests are expected by autumn.

VTT biosensors research team leader Dr Leena Hakalahti said: “As the situation with the epidemic began to worsen internationally, we started looking for solutions within our area of excellence. We have expertise in antibody development and production as well as previous experience in designing diagnostic tests. It was an easy decision for us to start working on the Covid-19 antibody.”

HUS is also playing an important role in the research. The samples used have been collected by HUS from patients who have had the coronavirus infection.

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VTT began the project to develop new antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus using internal funding, but is now urgently seeking additional funding and partners for the development of the rapid response test.

The tests and their analysis equipment could be carried out in Finland by VTT and other Finnish companies. In addition to responding to domestic needs, they could be sold internationally.

VTT research area vice president Dr Jussi Paakkari said: “Increasing the testing capacity plays a key role in monitoring the progress of the epidemic, but current testing methods require a lot of time and resources, which limits the capacity. The purpose of the rapid test is to enable growing the testing capacity and ensuring the availability of tests even as the epidemic continues.”

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