Gottheimer Joins Bipartisan Push to Rapidly Deploy Antibody Testing to Check for Coronavirus Immunity

Apr 02, 2020
Press

Deployment will allow those who have acquired COVID-19 immunity to safely re-enter the workforce and help restart the economy — North Jersey medical technology company BD has developed new rapid immunity test

On Thursday, April 2, 2020, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced he is joining a bipartisan push for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to deploy antibody tests as rapidly and widely as possible, once they are approved, to check for those who have acquired immunity to COVID-19 so more Americans can safely return to work, travel, and help restart our nation’s economy in the coming weeks and months.  

North Jersey’s Becton Dickinson (BD), along with BioMedomics, recently announced the release of a new 15-minute test that can detect antibodies in blood to confirm current or past exposure to COVID-19.

“Restarting the economy after the coronavirus pandemic will take place only after a large fraction of the population is confident that they are immune to infection so that it is safe to work, travel, and return to normal life. This will happen when a proven vaccine is widely deployed, but this is likely more than a year away. In the meantime, much of our population, especially the young and minimally symptomatic, will have already acquired immunity to COVID-19, not through vaccination, but by getting infected and recovering,” wrote a bipartisan group of Members in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and BARDA Director Rick Bright. “Most of those who recover will not be certain they had COVID-19, either because the symptoms were too mild, or because tests for the virus were unavailable at the time they were infected. Fortunately, a so-called serological test that detects the immune system’s response to a viral infection, including to COVID-19, could provide such a reasonable assurance.”

The Members continued, “It is imperative that serological tests be rapidly deployed to all Americans, so that the people who have acquired COVID-19 immunity can re-enter the work force and restart the economy.”

Some tests have been developed by U.S.-based companies, recently approved by the FDA, and are already being manufactured and deployed by the hundreds of thousands in China.  

A copy of the letter is available HERE, the text of which is provided below.

Dear Secretary Azar and Director Bright,

We write to thank you for your efforts to encourage innovation in COVID-19 testing and response and to urge you to deploy these tests as rapidly and widely as possible once they are approved. 

Restarting the economy after the coronavirus pandemic will take place only after a large fraction of the population is confident that they are immune to infection so that it is safe to work, travel, and return to normal life.  This will happen when a proven vaccine is widely deployed, but this is likely more than a year away. In the meantime, much of our population, especially the young and minimally symptomatic, will have already acquired immunity to COVID-19, not through vaccination, but by getting infected and recovering. Most of those who recover will not be certain they had COVID-19, either because the symptoms were too mild, or because tests for the virus were unavailable at the time they were infected.

Fortunately, a so-called serological test that detect the immune system’s response to a viral infection, including to COVID-19, could provide such a reasonable assurance. The simplest serological tests involve a finger-prick to deliver drops of blood to a disposable cartridge which can deliver an answer within minutes. No special equipment is needed, and tests like this could be readily obtained at doctor’s offices or drive-thru test centers. It is imperative that serological tests be rapidly deployed to all Americans, so that the people who have acquired COVID-19 immunity can re-enter the work force and restart the economy. 

We applaud the FDA for acting rapidly in granting provisional approval of the first of these tests [1], and BARDA for providing a funding opportunity[2] for ramping up manufacture. It is now vital that the U.S. does not drop the ball on coronavirus antibody testing since it tells us who can safely return to work. It will be an unnecessary economic tragedy if our citizens remain cowering at home because we failed to provide them with the simple, inexpensive means of proving their immunity. Each one of these inexpensive test kits can add many thousands of dollars to GDP by allowing someone who has recovered from COVID-19 to return to the productive economy. 

We thank you again and urge you to deploy serological tests that have met accuracy and safety standards as rapidly and widely as possible. 

Sincerely,

[1] http://www.clpmag.com/2020/03/fda-allows-biomedomics-sars-cov-2-serology-tests-diagnostic-use 
[2] https://www.phe.gov/emergency/events/COVID19/Pages/business-barda.aspx  

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