VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has begun development of a rapid test for the coronavirus together with MeVac, the joint vaccine research center of the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) and the University of Helsinki.
The new testing method is based on detecting the viral antigens of the COVID-19 virus. Once completed, the test will provide healthcare professionals with an accurate, fast, and resource-efficient method to detect coronavirus infections early.
“As the situation with the epidemic began to worsen internationally, we started looking for solutions within our area of excellence,” said Dr. Leena Hakalahti, the head of a research team on biosensors at VTT. “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.”
The method is designed to be initially carried out by healthcare personnel to diagnose COVID-19 at an early stage of the disease. It will yield results in 15 minutes or less, which is significantly faster than existing tests, and will be considerably more cost-efficient than current methods.
The first versions of the test are expected this autumn.
“As the research progresses, we will explore the possibility of using the developed antibodies not only for testing, but also for the treatment of the coronavirus disease,” said Olli Vapalahti, professor of virology at the University of Helsinki.
Once the technology has been completed, the same development process could be quickly applied to diagnose also other viruses. The team is actively seeking Finnish companies to join the co-operation, along with additional funding.