University of Texas Medical Branch developing tool to streamline COVID-19 vaccine development

GALVESTON, Texas – Researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch are collaborating with the clinical trial laboratory services organization Q2 Solutions to make a new assay test available that will streamline the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Once UTMB completes the testing kit, Q2 Solutions labs will produce it for use in clinical trials so that researchers can more quickly and accurately judge how well a developing COVID-19 vaccine is working in people.

When compared with the tests currently available to test the potency of developing vaccines, UTMB’s new test is more sensitive and works much faster. The new test yields results in a single day rather than taking several days to complete and can process more samples simultaneously.

“We have successfully produced a reporter virus system engineered with either luciferase (the same chemical that gives fireflies their signature glow) or fluorescent tags to enable quantitative determination of vaccine effectiveness,” said Pei-Yong Shi, professor of Human Genetics at UTMB. “This test will enable Q2 Solutions to analyze blood samples from individuals participating in vaccine clinical trials to see whether the vaccine has induced antibodies that block infection of the virus and thereby answer critical questions in the vaccine development process.”

The COVID-19 diagnostic tests available through governments and commercial laboratories are used to reveal whether a person is infected by the virus. The UTMB test focuses on preventing infections through vaccine development by creating a technology that helps determine how well a developing vaccine protects a person from COVID-19. The team’s goal is to develop a quicker and more efficient method of measuring neutralizing antibody concentrations, the gold standard method for determining vaccine effectiveness.

“We are pleased to support UTMB in this important research to develop the COVID-19 assay that, once available, may help accelerate vaccine development,” said Kevin Jones, vice president and general manager, Bioanalytical, ADME, and Vaccine Laboratories for Q2 Solutions. “We are excited to take the assay developed from this research collaboration to production in our labs and enable vaccine developers to use it for large-scale human clinical trial testing to drive toward an effective COVID-19 vaccine.”