TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Academia Sinica on Sunday (March 8) announced that a team of scientists has developed antibodies that can identify the protein that causes the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) in just 19 days, paving the way for a new test for the virus that can provide results within 15 minutes.
On its Facebook page at noon on Sunday, Academia Sinica announced that Dr. Yang An-suei (楊安綏) and his team at the Genomics Research Center had developed monoclonal antibodies that can identify the protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, within a "record-breaking" 19 days. Specifically, Yang said that the first monoclonal antibodies to bind the nucleocapsid protein (N protein) have been successfully tested and generated.
Yang said that if these antibodies can be successfully manufactured and validated, they could be used to create a rapid test for COVID-19 that could yield results in as little as 15 minutes, similar to rapid influenza tests. He added that these antibodies do not bind to the N proteins of the other fives strains of coronavirus, avoiding the problem of cross-reactivity.
Medical illustration showing the coronavirus structure. Note the location of the N protein. (Wikimedia Commons photo)
The announcement stated that Yang's team is working with the Ministry of Economic Affairs on the development and production of prototypes. The next step will be to work on product validation and certification with the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration before coordinating with the Ministry of Health and Welfare on rolling out the rapid test kit in Taiwan.
The statement cited Academia Sinica President James C. Liao (廖俊智) as saying it is hoped that mass production of test kits should begin in about three to four months. Current tests for the virus take four hours to yield results.