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Heat Biologics, U of Miami Partner to Develop Rapid Point-of-Care Coronavirus Test

NEW YORK – Heat Biologics, a Durham, North Carolina developer of therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines, said on Monday that it is collaborating with the University of Miami to develop a point-of-care diagnostic test for COVID-19.

The test is expected to require a pharyngeal throat swab to deliver diagnostic results on a paper strip in under 30 minutes. A spokesperson for Heat Biologics said in an email that the assay will use isothermal amplification technology to detect viral nucleic acids.

Heat Biologics said that preliminary research suggests that the test is specific to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, with no cross-reactivity to previous coronavirus subtypes. It requires no expensive instrumentation to run and is amenable to cost-effective manufacturing and mass production, the company said.

"Our lab has tremendous experience developing accurate and easily usable tests for infectious diseases such as [human papillomavirus] and Zika," test codeveloper Sylvia Daunert, chair of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said in a statement. "Unlike tests that detect antibodies (IgG and IgM method), which can take weeks to manifest, our test is being developed to utilize molecular recognition and amplification of the target virus. This should allow for much earlier detection — within a couple days of exposure — providing critical and time-sensitive information to help curb the spread of the disease."

Other collaborating scientists at the Miller School of Medicine include Sapna Deo and Jean-Marc Zingg.

In parallel, Heat Biologics and the University of Miami have partnered to develop a vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.