ECHAlliance Director Prof. Jim McLaughlin has been appointed to help the government develop a coronavirus antibody test

27 April 2020

Two Ulster University professors have been appointed to help the government develop a coronavirus antibody test.

Officials are working to produce a reliable test which can be used in the community and help to end lockdown safely.

Professors Tara Moore and Jim McLaughlin have now joined the UK Rapid Test Consortium (UK-RTC) via local company CIGA Healthcare.

It is hoped a successful test will determine whether people have developed immunity after contracting the virus.

Along with three other companies and the University of Oxford, a six-month memorandum of understanding has been agreed to develop and manufacture the test.

If successful, manufacturing can take place with each company, including at a site in Northern Ireland.

Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, deputy vice-chancellor of Ulster University, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this consortium and to support the UK Government’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a university, we have always pioneered research that improves the lives of our communities and societies and addresses global challenges.

“We are committed to using our knowledge, expertise and resources to fight back against Covid-19.”

She added: “Professors Moore and McLaughlin bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to this consortium, which will aid the manufacture of important diagnostics in Northern Ireland.”

Earlier this week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said there was still no evidence that antibody tests offered a guarantee of immunity.

Professor John Newton, national coordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme, also warned the public against purchasing unapproved tests.

“We are breaking new ground with this work every day and I am confident this major research effort will make a breakthrough,” the BBC reported.

He said that unproven tests could give false readings and put more people at risk.

“As soon as we have found a test that works for this purpose, we will be in a position to roll them out across the country as a back-to-work test.”

Dr Maria van Kerkhove, from the WHO, warned that any new product must be properly validated.

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