The Pasteur Institute in Senegal is set to produce rapid antigen tests for diagnosing SARS-CoV-2 in patients from early 2022 with the help of a new tech transfer partnership with two international biotech companies.
The Institute, based in Dakar, will partner with Bionote, a South Korean firm that provides diagnostic solutions for COVID-19, and with Mologic, a British biotech that is set to be acquired by a Bill Gates-backed consortium.
According to Tech Cabal, rapid antigen tests are considered a ‘first line of defence’ against the coronavirus for individuals who have symptoms. These tests are simpler and quicker compared to other testing approaches, like PCR testing. However, they are not as accurate as PCR testing, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A typical round of antigen testing takes around 15 minutes to determine whether or not a person is infected, while PCR testing can take days depending on testing caseloads.
Partnership to Boost Testing in Africa
As reported by Reuters, the news was initially disclosed by two international health agencies – UNITAID and FIND, a global alliance for diagnostics.
“High-quality antigen tests are the primary diagnostic tool for detecting active infection in poorer settings where molecular testing is not available,” the statement from the alliance reads.
Under the deal, the technology and expertise for making COVID-19 tests will be passed from the South Korean and British pharmaceutical firms to the Pasteur Institute’s DiaTROPIX – a diagnostic test production unit launched in November. The objective of the partnership is to boost COVID-19 testing and detection in Africa.
“Expanded production capacity in local and regional hubs is critical to ensuring that healthcare providers in low- and middle-income countries can implement effective testing strategies to contain the spread of the virus,” UNITAID spokesman Herve Verhoosel says.
DiaTROPIX is set to seek regulatory approval in Senegal for the tests to be transferred from Mologic and Bionote and to be commercialised under its own brand. It plans to make 2.5 million tests per month in 2022, according to the statement.
Senegal Facing ‘Unprecedented’ Surge
Currently, Senegal is being gripped by an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 infections, according to its health ministry spokesperson Mamadou Ndiaye. A new daily case record of 733 infections was recorded on 14 July.
More than 25% of the 2,854 tests carried out last week Wednesday came back positive, according to Ndiaye. Vaccination rollout in the country has also been slow.