April 23, 2020 / 4:44 PM / a month ago

Siemens Healthineers joins race to supply coronavirus antibody tests

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German diagnostics and medical imaging firm Siemens Healthineers will launch an antibody test to identify past coronavirus infections, competing with rivals Roche and Abbott.

The Siemens division said in a statement on Thursday that the blood test, which requires the company’s processing equipment, would be available to large labs by late May 2020.

More than 25 million tests could be supplied per month from June after an upgrade at a manufacturing site in Walpole, Massachusetts, it added.

The test will “identify individuals infected with the virus who have developed an immune response to the virus, even if they were asymptomatic or never diagnosed with the disease”, Healthineers said.

Governments across the world are looking to ease restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the virus. Knowing who has overcome an infection and may therefore have acquired immunity will be a key element of that effort, though it is not clear yet how strong immunity is or how long it will last.

Abbott Laboratories laid out plans last week to produce 20 million antibody tests per month by June, followed by an announcement from Switzerland’s Roche that it would also launch such a test next month.

Roche boss Schwan said at the time there were about 100 such tests already on offer but some were “a disaster” in terms of reliability.

Germany has said it is testing for immunity developed in parts of the population in hard-hit regions of the country.

Similar testing projects are underway in countries such as the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, Spanish member of the European Parliament Nicolas Gonzalez Casares told Reuters.

Siemens Healthineers said its test would identify more than 99% of those with antibodies and that also more than 99% of the samples without the antibodies would be identified as such.

Healthineers, Roche and Abbott said they were seeking emergency use authorisation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Earlier, Italian digital services company Triboo said it had started selling antibody tests produced by China’s SOBC Outdo Biotech, initially to companies preparing to restart operations once the government lifts a weeks-long shutdown.

Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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