UA, NOWDiagnostics to study COVID-19 prevalence on campus

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 796 views 

The University of Arkansas and Springdale-based diagnostics testing manufacturer NOWDiagnostics Inc. announced Wednesday (June 16) a partnership to study the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 virus antibodies among UA students, faculty and staff. SARS-CoV-2, or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, is the virus that causes COVID-19.

NOWDiagnostics has developed a finger-stick antibody test that uses a blood sample to detect the presence of COVID antibodies in 15 minutes. The company’s self-contained ADEXUSDx COVID-19 antibody test, developed and produced in Arkansas, will be used for the study. The goal is to test each enrollee three times over four months. Recruitment for the study began March 17.

According to NOWDiagnostics, testing has already started and is tentatively set to end in July. However, investigators are preparing to expand the study to research the prevalence of COVID in children.

The existing study is designed to estimate the seropositive prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in UA students, faculty and staff and evaluate whether the prevalence of the antibodies in the UA population significantly changes over time, according to a news release. The information is expected to be used to inform policymakers’ decisions affecting the health and welfare of all Arkansans and assist state leaders responsible for reopening Arkansas’ businesses and schools, the release said.

Dr. Donald Catanzaro, a research assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, is the study’s principal investigator. Chemical engineering associate professor Shannon Servoss, a former member of the ADEXUSDx COVID-19 antibody test development team at NOWDiagnostics, is the co-principal investigator, along with Shengfan Zhang, associate professor of industrial engineering.

“This study simultaneously accomplishes an in-depth study of how prevalent COVID-19 is among our campus community of students, staff and faculty which gives us information on the effectiveness of our pandemic public health policy,” Catanzaro said. “Secondly, it assists NOWDiagnostics in understanding the performance of their innovative antibody test, and very importantly, this study gives our talented team of undergraduate researchers experience in clinical research — it really is a triple win.”

Antibody testing has played an important role in identifying convalescent plasma donors who can provide therapy for those most affected by COVID, according to the release. The testing also provides understanding for immunity following infection and possible therapy and vaccination for the community, healthcare providers, businesses and governments.

In May, NOWDiagnostics announced the receipt of Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for the ADEXUSDx COVID-19 test’s use in moderate complex settings and at the point of care. In August 2020, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provided money and technical support under contract to NOWDiagnostics for the development of the antibody test. Trials for over-the-counter use are ongoing.

“The efforts of the University of Arkansas researchers and the team at NOWDiagnostics serve as an excellent example of a public-private collaboration that is built on a longstanding relationship,” said Dr. Bob Beitle, professor of chemical engineering and associate vice chancellor for research and innovation. “U of A faculty are encouraged to seek out these connections — especially with Arkansas-based companies — to elevate the entire community.”