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Hope Hails from Home

How an antibody test from South Florida can get our county, state and country back to work

Let’s fast forward from social distancing. Day 1 back to work, meeting, class, optometrist, coffee shop, life. Bag is packed. Clothes are neatly pressed. Hair is still slightly overgrown because a visit to the salon ranked lower on the priority list than whatever today holds. Now, do you put on your gloves and mask? Is it safe to go about life as we knew it? At this point, the local government has lifted their protect-in-public restrictions. The rate of infections and deaths caused by COVID-19 has waned. But it’s still out there. In hospitals and homes. In some capacity.

Lucky or unlucky for you, you actually suffered from what you believe to be COVID-19 related symptoms. You spent 2 weeks in bed with a high fever, coughing and zero appetite. Granted, you never officially got tested as the testing facility was 2 hours away and your over-the-phone doctors urged you to stay home and tough it out. The silver lining is your body should now be equipped with the proper antibodies to fight any further infection. You’re safe. Or are you?

API is looking for city and county partners who want to do studies or administer tests on their own population. In turn, API is offering test donations to aid in facilitation.

What is Covid-Rapid?

In mid-April, Vice President Mike Pence referenced Abacus Pharma International (API), a South Florida based company, announcing, “…an antibody test that would be produced at the rate of 20 million tests a month.” API’s Covid-Rapid, registered by the FDA, is a 15-minute antibody test that is convenient, easy to use, and affordable. The test looks for both current and previous infections in order to understand who is currently contagious and who has probable immunity. Knowing who has immunity will help public health officials limit the continued spread of COVID-19, and eventually allow people with immunity to safely jump start their lives again, without putting others at risk. By the time this article is printed, tens of thousands of tests should already be in distribution from the warehouse in Pompano.

API CEO, Dr. Vincent DeGennaro, is an Epidemiologist and Internal Medicine Doctor living in Miami Beach. In a recent interview, he tells us, “The US has only tested 14% of all Coronavirus cases, not to mention 50% of carriers are asymptomatic. This is no way to stop the epidemic. We must combat this with massive repeated testing.” Rapid serology, or blood, testing – the kind we administer with a pin prick for instant flu diagnosis – will be critical to determine who has immunity and how widely the virus has spread. Covid-Rapid can screen large populations and is designed to help America get back to work.

The path of Covid-Rapid

For years, Dr. DeGennaro has worked in low income countries like Haiti, where swab tests requiring laboratory follow-up aren’t an option. For over 10 years, API has created over 200 simple and accurate rapid diagnostic tests, which can be done in an outpatient setting without a lab. “During this pandemic, the US has failed miserably with swab tests in both volume and time to process,” says the doctor. “We don’t have and never will have the capability to swab everyone. Our Covid-Rapid tests don’t need a lab, and don’t need specially trained personnel.” With vaccines expected a year away, Dr. DeGennaro predicts we will need 400 million tests in the US, allowing for more than 1 test per person over the next 16 months, to employ massive repeated testing as a screening tool to eliminate the possibility of resurgence.

“Last week we signed a deal with a Florida production factory, and this week, Governor Cuomo approved production for a second facility in New York to be up and running May 5,” explains DeGennaro. In the following weeks, API could be producing up to 20 million tests per month from combined production facilities.

Once the tests are out, the public and private sectors will need to work together to ramp up mass testing. “We will start to see lots of companies pop up to administer mobile options, from Publix parking lots, to local parks, to the workplace.” says DeGennaro.

“There is also a positive backside to immunity testing, in the sense that when a vaccine is available, there can be targeted and unwasteful administration of the resource.”

What makes Covid-Rapid different?

While PCR tests remain the most accurate for testing current infections, COVID-Rapid has 100% accuracy when testing past infections. Unlike many of the pop-up COVID-19 test manufacturers, API didn’t just start last month. API’s vast experience means that they are able to develop an accurate, highly specific test for COVID-19 that won’t interact with other viruses or infections that may be present in one’s blood. “Our test is one of the best on the market, and has already received approval in the European Union and been used throughout Belgium,” says the CEO.

How API is giving back

Part of the philosophy of API is they’re a social business, there to help people in the community they serve. “We are a family business, a local mom and pop shop if you will,” says Dr. DeGennaro, “and we want to remain close to our roots.” API is already committed to donating 10,000 tests to the City of Miami and countless more to underdeveloped countries like Haiti and Malawi.

A way forward

Throughout this pandemic, knowledge – a semblance of a controlled set of facts – is something we’ve all been grappling to obtain. Dr. DeGennaro, API and now our country’s administration believe that holding the knowledge of known antibodies in every American, or later in its absence a vaccine, will provide the confidence to return to life as we knew it before the pandemic. I, for one, would agree.

Meghann Collard
Author: Meghann Collard

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