Novel assay can be performed using a single drop of blood and standard lab equipment
Vaccinations to protect people from the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus are well underway, but many outstanding questions have yet to be answered: how can a patient know if their body has mounted an effective immune response? How long does that immune response last? Is a person “safe” from COVID-19 after their first vaccine dose? Will their vaccination protect them against other mutant strains of the virus?
Answers to those questions require measurement of neutralizing antibodies (NABs), molecules in the blood that specifically prevent SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins from binding to human cells. Current methods to measure NABs require that a patient go to a specialized lab for a phlebotomist-drawn blood sample, and the subsequent analysis can take days. A faster, simpler, more widely-available NAB assay is required to address the global scope of the COVID-19 pandemic and confirm that vaccines provide effective, lasting protection.
Faster, better, cheaper antibody testing
NAB-SPEAR is a novel, ultrasensitive antibody assay technology that can measure the presence and activity of NABs against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. NAB-SPEAR leverages a simple, rapid workflow comprising a homogenous assay with no washing or separation steps, followed by a quantitative, ultrasensitive readout using standard laboratory equipment with which current COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests (PCR) are performed. NAB-SPEAR employs an innovative “double handshake” method to eliminate the random interactions that typically limit the performance of homogeneous assays, allowing precise measurement of how effectively a patient’s NABs are binding to the correct part of the Spike protein.
The extraordinary sensitivity of NAB-SPEAR enables measurements to be carried out on a single drop of blood, eliminating the need for patients to go to specialized labs. Instead, samples can be taken at home and subsequently dropped off at (or even mailed to) a lab. Moreover, the simple workflow of NAB-SPEAR allows it to be easily automated to process at least 50,000 samples daily.
Beyond its near-term applicability to SARS-CoV-2, NAB-SPEAR has long-term value as a tool for developing and testing vaccines against other pathogens. It can also be used to assess whether patients have an unwanted immune reaction to a protein-based therapeutic.
This technology is currently being de-risked at the Wyss Institute.