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Guelph, Ont., company to develop blood test for COVID-19 immunity

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A Guelph, Ont., biopharmaceutical company says it is developing one of Canada’s first blood tests to determine whether a person is immune to COVID-19.

PlantForm Corporation has turned over its operation to focus on the fight against the novel coronavirus disease and said on Tuesday that it has applied to the National Research Council for funding.

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Most COVID-19 tests only confirm whether someone has been exposed to the virus, and Canada does not yet have a test to determine immunity, said PlantForm CEO Don Stewart.

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“I saw a report in the last couple of days that there were some recovered patients in China who are now showing signs of the virus again, so it’s very important to have a test that knows if it is safe to go back,” he said. “We’re trying to develop that test and increase the comfort level for people going back into the workforce and back into their communities.”

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He added that many of these types of tests are currently in development and that each test will be different, but it’s not known which one will be the best.

PlantForm is also in the early stages of developing antibodies to treat infected patients and protect front-line health-care workers.

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“Somebody who is a front-line worker in an emergency room can be given a drug, and so for a short period of time, they’re immune to the virus. So it’s a protective mechanism that can be used in an emergency situation,” Stewart said.

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PlantForm has teamed up with Cape Bio Pharms in South Africa and Canadian partners Inno-3B and Microbix Biosystems on these projects.

Stewart couldn’t provide a timeline on when the test and antibodies might be available. He said they are waiting on funding but have already started the background work.