Hackensack Meridian CDI and partners at the University of Michigan Demonstrate Better, Faster COVID-19 Antibody Testing

October 22, 2020

Better tool, methodology could mean better convalescent plasma

A more efficient and much faster method to assess high levels of neutralizing antibodies to COVID-19 could point the way to better understanding and treatment of the disease, according to new published findings by scientists from the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) and the University of Michigan (U-M).

A new portable “lab on a chip,” developed by the U-M scientists and demonstrated with help of the CDI, can identify the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in blood donors with greater speed and efficiency than the current standard “enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay” or ELISA technology.

Together, the CDI and U-M researchers have shown the device can identify COVID-19 antibodies in human blood in 15 minutes – much shorter than the few days the process normally takes. The test can also be done with smaller amounts of blood.

The work could have particular value for the validation of convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19. A paper on the findings is published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

“Convalescent plasma is a treatment that can be very effective – but for it to have the best chance to work, it needs to have rigorous standards, which include assessing the presence of high-titer neutralizing antibodies,” said David Perlin, Ph.D., chief scientific officer and senior vice president of the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation, and one of the new study’s authors. “This paper shows how the antibody thresholds can mean a better potential COVID-19 treatment – and also better outcomes.”

“This research shows what an important role microfluidics can play in both saving lives and costs during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Xudong (Sherman) Fan, U-M biomedical engineering professor and co-founder of Optofluidic Bioassay.

The U-M device detects the presence and amount of neutralizing immunoglobulin—antibodies created by the immune system within seven to 10 days of a COVID-19 infection. Only donors with high levels are likely to provide samples that could be effective in treatment, such as convalescent plasma therapy.

The treatment involves taking plasma – the liquid portion of the blood that contains antibodies – from survivors and infusing it into sick patients to boost their immune response.

Thousands of patients nationally have been administered convalescent plasma through a program overseen by the Mayo Clinic. Hackensack University Medical Center also has its own clinical trial underway involving high-titer (levels) of antibodies.

The lab-on-a-chip approach developed by U-M analyzes on-site and requires just a finger prick’s worth of blood—8 microliters. The traditional ELISA methods require 100 microliters to do its work. The U-M system is contained in a device the size of a portable 3D printer.

Read the paper here: “Rapid and quantitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 specific IgG for convalescent serum evaluation.”

ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH

Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals – JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick.

Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 35,000 team members, and 7,000 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network’s notable distinctions include having four hospitals among the top 10 in New Jersey by U.S. News and World Report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and being named to Becker’s Healthcare’s “150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare/2019” list.

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.

For additional information, please visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org.

About the Center for Discovery and Innovation

The Center for Discovery and Innovation, a newly established member of Hackensack Meridian Health, seeks to translate current innovations in science to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer, infectious diseases and other life-threatening and disabling conditions. The CDI, housed in a fully renovated state-of-the-art facility, offers world-class researchers a support infrastructure and culture of discovery that promotes science innovation and rapid translation to the clinic.