UK tech firm Smiths to aid COVID-19 antibody test production

(Reuters) – Technology firm Smiths Group (SMIN.L) said on Wednesday it would help produce a blood-based COVID-19 antibody test approved by the British healthcare regulator, another move by the company to develop products to combat the pandemic.

The UK-based company, which makes a range of technology from baggage screeners to explosive detectors, had in March delayed a long-sought separation of its medical unit to focus on making and delivering ventilators to Britain as part of a consortium.

London-listed Smiths said it had agreed with biopharmaceutical firm Attomarker, for an undisclosed amount, to make its portable, triple antibody test device at unit Smiths Detection’s site in Hemel Hempstead, England.

Attomarker, spun off from the University of Exeter, focuses on making blood-testing devices that detect biomarkers.

Its test for the new coronavirus will look for three virus proteins and three types of antibodies, which are the body’s natural defence to fight infections.

Smiths said the COVID-19 device, approved by Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for use by the National Health Service, can deliver results in about seven minutes, with a sensitivity of up to 96%.

The company said it had been in talks with Attomarker since April to develop, design and test performance, adding that it had the ability to scale production as per demand.

Other firms making antibody tests for the respiratory illness include Roche (ROG.S) and Abbott (ABT.N).

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Maju Samuel

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