Rochester’s Imanis Life Sciences is in “a foot race” to recruit blood donors who haven’t had COVID-19 or been vaccinated for a clinical trial to improve the efficiency of its immunity test.
The biotechnology company, based on the Rochester Technology (former IBM) Campus, is urgently seeking 100 people with blood without COVID-19 antibodies. But the number of potential participants dwindles each day as more and more people become vaccinated.
Imanis Chief Commercial Officer Michael Herbert said donors are needed to help the company make it easier to use its COVID immunity test.
Imanis, with the help of its corporate sister affiliate, Vyriad, developed a test called Immuno-Cov in 2020 to measure a patient’s antibodies that block the virus that causes COVID-19. The difference in Imanis’ test is that it tracks the number of neutralizing antibodies.
While all antibodies can identify the virus, only neutralizing antibodies can actually block the virus from entering cells to prevent infection. Immuno-Cov identifies and tallies the neutralizing antibodies in a measurement called a titer.
Starting at a level of 32, a titer of 100 shows some immunity. When that number exceeds 1,000, then the patient is believed to have immunity to COVID prime and all of the known variants.
A follow-up test can then show how many neutralizing antibodies a patient still has weeks or months later. This will help track how immune a recovered COVID-19 patient is, as well as track how long vaccines remain effective.
The test, which costs $300, has proven to be successful in tracking people’s active immunity to COVID-19. The rub is that it requires a sample of processed blood that is shipped to Imanis on ice. That adds a level of difficulty that could limit how many people choose to use the test.
“We want it to be widely available, because it is incredibly useful,” said Imanis Principal Scientist Rianna Vandergaast.
Vandergaast said she tested herself after being vaccinated to gauge the strength of her immunity. She intends to do it again this summer to determine the risk of taking a vacation.
To give more people information to better understand their risk of exposure to COVID-19, Imanis would like to eliminate the need for a vial of blood from the patient.
Instead of drawing a blood sample, they are studying if a dried blood spot will work for the Immuno-Cov test.
Vandergaast said the blood spot process involves poking a patient’s finger, collecting drops of blood on a special piece of collection paper and then mailing the paper to Imanis. A hole punch could then take several samples from a blood card for testing.
Working with Vyriad, Imanis is conducting a clinical trial on using dried blood samples. That’s where the need for blood donors who have not been vaccinated nor been diagnosed with COVD-19 comes in.
“Being in Olmsted County is a blessing from a personal perspective ... and it is kind of a challenge, (to find blood without antibodies) because we have such a high vaccination rate,” she said.
Participants who donate blood for the clinical trial will then be eligible to have the $300 Immuno-Cov test conducted for free, after they are vaccinated.
Anyone interested in participating in the dried blood clinical trial should contact Donna Sellers of Vyriad at CRC@vyriad.com or by phone at 229-315-6749.