Spanish researchers are letting others get their own COVID test

Spanish researchers are letting others get their own COVID test

Geneva – Spanish government researchers have agreed to allow other manufacturers to run a coronavirus antibody test, in a move that could significantly boost testing in poor countries with limited monitoring for COVID-19.

In a statement on Tuesday, the World Health Organization and the United Nations-backed Patents and Medicines Group said Spain’s National Research Council had signed a licensing agreement for COVID-19 antibody testing. This is the first time any manufacturer has allowed its coronavirus test to be included in a technology pool set up by the World Health Organization.

The United Nations agency launched the COVID-19 suite last year, hoping to convince makers of virus tests, treatments and vaccines to share their licenses so the products can be produced and used globally to stop the pandemic. Until this week, no manufacturer had agreed to help.

The World Health Organization said the agreement with the Spanish developers covers all relevant patents and biological components needed to perform the test. She said the test is easy to use and suitable for low- and middle-income countries with a basic laboratory network. Antibody testing can distinguish between vaccinated people and those who have had a natural COVID-19 infection, a distinction that could help authorities improve anti-epidemic measures as immunization campaigns begin.

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“I urge developers of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to follow this example and turn the tide on the pandemic and on the devastating global injustice that this pandemic has highlighted,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. Less than 1% of the world’s COVID-19 vaccines go to poor countries.

Stijn Deborgreve, a diagnostic advisor for the Access for Doctors Without Borders campaign, said he hopes the agreement will speed testing of capabilities in the developing world.

“We have seen a hoarding of not only vaccines and treatments but also of COVID-19 diagnoses, which has left many low- and middle-income countries without much-needed testing to help control COVID-19,” Deborgreve said in a statement. He called on drug giant Roche, which is conducting the WHO-approved COVID-19 test, to share its technology publicly.

Deborgreve described the agreement with Spain as “a promising step forward to break monopolies like Roche and allow all countries to develop and manufacture this life-saving technology”.

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