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Abbott, Roche Ink Contract to Supply 10M Antibody Tests to UK

NEW YORK – The UK said it has signed a contract with Abbott Laboratories and Roche Diagnostics for the supply of more than 10 million antibody tests, UK Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced in a daily press briefing on Thursday to update the status of coronavirus in the UK.

Hancock said that the two antibody tests by Abbott and Roche had been given positive evaluations by Public Health England and approved by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Abbott and Roche will supply the government with more than 10 million tests over the coming months.

Starting next week, the tests will be rolled out in a phased manner, first to health and care staff, patients, and residents, he added.

Separately, Abbott said in a statement that it is providing its IgG antibody test for use with the Architect i1000SR and i2000SR and Alinity i platforms to UK National Health Service labs. It has the capacity to provide "significant numbers of tests" to the UK and has already shipped 800,000 antibody tests this week to NHS labs, the Abbott Park, Illinois-based company added.

The test originally received Emergency Use Authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration in April, which was expanded earlier this month.

Along with the firm's PCR tests, the antibody test will "support the UK with broad, reliable molecular and antibody testing during this pandemic."

Roche spokesman Daniel Grotzky said in an email that the company's test covered by the UK deal is the Elecys Anti-SARS-CoV-2 serology test, which received EUA from the US Food and Drug Administration earlier this month.

"Reliable and accurate antibody testing is the crucial next step in understanding the spread of this virus and will provide greater confidence and reassurance as we move into the next phase of our collective response to this pandemic," he said, noting that the test requires a venipuncture blood draw by a qualified healthcare profession, and has reported 100 percent sensitivity at 14 days post-PCR confirmation and over 99.8 percent specificity. 

Hancock also said that the UK government is working with companies including Oxford Nanopore, Chronomics, and DNA Nudge on the development of tests with rapid turnaround times. He noted UK firm OptiGene has developed one such test and that it is being trialed starting Thursday.

According to OptiGene's website, its molecular diagnostic test can provide results within 20 minutes, and about 300 patient samples can be processed in one hour on one instrument. The test can be performed directly from nasal and throat swabs, and unlike PCR tests, OptiGene's technology, which leverages a loop-mediated isothermal amplification method, does not require RNA extraction and "is inherently much faster than PCR," according to the firm.

Hancock said that the UK government will monitor the effectiveness of OptiGene's test "very closely. And if it works, we will roll it out as soon as we can."