Dr. Frank Sellrie and Jörg Schenk from the Immunotechnology group of UP Transfer GmbH at the University of Potsdam are working on improved testing methods using high-quality antibodies at the Potsdam Science Park. Based on many years of research by the two scientists, an improved CE-certified rapid test was launched by the company ImmoGnost in June 2021. Recently, rbb television also reported on this advancement in a feature on the programme ‘Brandenburg aktuell’.
With a sensitivity of 96.19% and specificity of 99.04%, the new rapid test offers several advantages due to its accuracy. What is so special about it? The test is significantly better than current tests and detects even the smallest amounts of virus. In addition, the test can also detect mutations of the coronavirus. As confirmed by the virology department of the Charité hospital in Berlin, the test does not detect naturally occurring coronaviruses that are already present. This is a great advantage, because it means that “false-positive” test results are almost impossible.
Many Years of Research and Experience
Dr. Frank Sellrie and Jörg Schenk each have 20 years of experience in the field of antibody research. In March of last year, work began on generating antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein. By the end of 2020, the antibodies were available at the Charité hospital after thorough validation. At the same time, the production of larger quantities of the antibodies by InVivo GmbH began.
This work was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the funding call for research into COVID-19. There is still a great need for SARS-CoV-2 binding antibodies in order to use them to detect corona infections more quickly and reliably. Reliable new tests are also needed with regard to the emerging virus mutations.
This made it all the more obvious to co-develop a new product: “We cannot hide a certain pride in our contribution to the fight against the pandemic,” say the two scientists. “The antibodies are of high quality in terms of sensitivity and specificity and have allowed ImmoGnost GmbH in Göttingen to develop an excellent rapid test.”
Uncomplicated application with quick results
And how does the test actually work? The decisive factor is the quality of the antibodies developed in the Potsdam laboratory, which are now being produced in large quantities in Henningsdorf. The antibodies in the test bind the nucleocapsid proteins present in large numbers in the virus, which is how the test registers a positive result. In contrast to the well-known spike protein, the nucleocapsid protein undergoes only minor changes. It is present in all known variants of the virus, thus allowing them to be detected reliably.
Although it is still necessary for trained personnel to perform the test, the test subjects are spared the unpleasant “deep nose and throat swab”. The test stick only needs to be inserted 2.5 cm deep into the nose to detect the smallest amounts of virus in the front part of the nose – the results are then available within 10 minutes.
A rarity: ImmoGnost GmbH’s test is produced in such a way that all materials critical for its manufacture are sourced from German production. This not only increases the reliability of production, for example in times of overstretched supply chains, it also has the major advantage, with regard to the necessary antibodies, of enabling the company to shape production “from close by” at every sub-step while also taking ethical aspects into account.