BETHLEHEM, Pa. - OraSure Technologies received federal funding to develop another coronavirus-related test.
The Bethlehem-based company got $629,217 to develop an antibody test for oral fluid samples, according to a news release.
The test would be easier than a blood draw, and would first be available in doctor's offices and at testing sites, then later made for at-home collection.
The oral fluid test would help increase virus antibody testing, which could help identify people who had COVID-19, even without symptoms. This would be especially important if previous infection means future immunity.
The funding comes from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It's the second COVID-19 test OraSure is developing. In April, the company received funding for a rapid self-test using oral fluid samples.
"Information is very useful to track the progress of the disease,” said Dr. Steven Tang, The President and CEO of OraSure. The test will use saliva.
“Actually saliva is rich in white blood cells and white blood cells are rich in antibodies, so it's a very natural thing to sample," Dr. Tang said.
Tang says it will be much more accurate than rapid blood tests. "This is not a rapid test, it's a lab-based test, and the use of saliva so it really can't be compared to those situations," he said.
Dr. Timothy Friel, chair of infectious diseases at Lehigh Valley Health Network, agrees.
"I very much agree with them that those performed in the laboratory space have more consistently, and more reliably, produced better sensitivity and specificity," he said.
More accurate testing will be key moving forward. However, he says this will not replace blood testing and patients should have their doctor prescribe the right test for them.
"Cell antibodies are going to be a key part in the ongoing battle to better control, contain and ultimately prevent COVID-19 in our communities," Friel said.
OraSure says the test will be ready this summer, it's still unclear how much they will cost.