New Advanced COVID Test Diagnoses Multiple Variants Rapidly

  NEW JERSEY – A new advanced COVID-19 test developed by experts at the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) can detect multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in two-and-a-half hours.

  According to a press release, the test can detect the known UK, Brazil, and South African variants, as well as others containing the key E484K mutation.

  “The Center for Discovery and Innovation is again leading the way in creating breakthroughs that will help defeat this pandemic,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, the chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “The CDI was created for this purpose – to deliver effective solutions in real time that will benefit patients, our communities and well beyond.’’

  “Certain virus variants are concerning because they are resistant or less responsive to current first-line treatments involving monoclonal antibody cocktails,” said David Perlin, PhD., the chief scientific officer and senior vice president of the CDI. “Our rapid through-put test allows doctors to treat those with COVID-19 who have specific variants with more effective therapies.”

  From December 2020 through February 2021, the CDI’s test assessed samples from New Jersey patients and found the virus variants increasing in prominence. Out of 435 nasal swab samples, the E484K variant was found at a rate of 12 percent of all samples in February. The N501Y variant followed in prevalence in 2021 with 11 percent. 

  More than 2,500 viruses have been sequenced by the CDI and they are working with the State of New Jersey to develop the most complete picture of the viral landscape yet assembled. These new tools allow resources for whole genome sequencing to be directed against the most concerning viruses.

  Other tools that have been developed over the last year of pandemic, which include:

  • The first rapid commercial COVID-19 test, reducing the wait time for results from days to hours (also the work of the CDI).
  • A convalescent plasma treatment utilizing antibodies from people with high concentrations of antibodies – “superdonors’’ – to treat hospitalized patients.
  • Participation in national clinical trials to develop COVID-19 vaccines, including the Moderna and J&J trials.
  • Vaccination mega-site launched at former Meadowlands Racetrack in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Health, State Police and National Guard, which is vaccinating 4,000 patients daily.
  • To date, the entire network has administered more than 300,000 vaccines.
  • Developed Keeping America Safe: Hackensack Meridian Health’s Assist Program which helps business owners and schools create a safe environment.