Taiwan's Academia Sinica rebuffs China's claim to coronavirus test antibodies

Taiwan's Academia Sinica says new coronavirus test reagent 'has nothing to do with China'

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James Liao.

James Liao. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Academia Sinica on Monday (March 9) rejected Communist China's attempt to claim credit for a new reagent for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) by saying "It had nothing to do with China."

At noon on Sunday, Academia Sinica announced on its Facebook page 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 that causes COVID-19, within a "record-breaking" 19 days. Yang said that if these antibodies can be successfully validated and manufactured, 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.

After reports surfaced on Chinese state-run media claiming that China's Academia Sinica had developed the new reagent, President James Liao (廖俊智) said at a press conference that "This is not the case at all. Of course, it has nothing to do with [China]," reported UDN. He emphasized that "We developed this completely on our own."

Liao said that the antibodies developed for the virus are very specific and need to be verified with real patients in the future to enable their successful use as part of a test kit. Because both the Wuhan virus and the common cold are coronaviruses, Liao said that cross-reactivity still needs to be ruled out.

Liao pointed out that the next step is to cooperate with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, manufacturers, and academic units to quickly verify clinical trials with actual patients and overcome the difficulties of mass production, according to the report. He said the time frame for the rollout of the reagent is difficult to pin down, "The sooner, the better. We will work together to use it in clinical practice in the shortest time possible."

He pointed out that the antibody development process also relies on the joint efforts of all of the institute's teams. Liao said that there are about 20 people on the main team, but in addition to Yang's laboratory, there are a number of other groups working together on the project.

He said that when the test kit is released in the near future, it will be like an influenza throat swab instead of a blood sample.