Novacyt develops new tests for COVID-19, bird flu, launches pandemic mink strain test

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
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Parisian diagnostics company Novacyt is working on a series of new tests for COVID-19 and bird flu.

The French firm has launched a research-use-only (RUO) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for a new strain of COVID-19 and the development of two new RUO PCR tests for avian influenza (aka bird flu) following recent outbreaks across Europe.

On the pandemic front, that new launch is for a specific new mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, and is known as Y453F. Originally found in mink in Denmark and the Netherlands, the Y453F mutation quickly spread to humans and has also been detected outside of Europe.

Some countries have culled tens of thousands of mink to try to stop the spread of this new mutation, but Novacyt says that, despite the virus constantly evolving, as most viruses do, this particular mutation was “of potential concern to scientists and clinicians as it causes an amino acid change which affects antibody binding.”

The company added: “While it is unknown what, if any, impact the amino acid modification will have on vaccines, Novacyt believes a RUO test could help scientists and clinicians to identify patients that carry the virus with the Y453F mutation. Should a clinical need arise for the diagnostic differentiation of Y453F from other strains of COVID-19 infection, Novacyt is well positioned to offer this as a clinical use diagnostic product. The RUO product is immediately available to order.”

As well as COVID-19, the firm is also working on two new RUO PCR tests for avian influenza amid recent outbreaks in Europe.

While no human infection due to these viruses has so far been detected, and the threat to the general population is currently low, continued surveillance of avian influenza viruses in Europe is important to monitor virus evolution and emergence, the company said.

“As a result, Novacyt has developed two RUO PCR tests to assist in the current outbreaks. These include a test to detect all HPAI A(H5) subtypes and a test designed to confirm the specific presence of the HPAI A(H5N8) subtype, which has been at the centre of the current outbreaks.”

At the start of the year, the French firm, with a base in the U.K., had shares worth less than 20 cents apiece; this month, the same shares on the Euronext are worth just under 10 euros, and up more than 2% on Monday trading.