University of Minnesota Launches COVID-19 Antibody Test

MINNEAPOLIS, MN- April 14, 2020 – The University of Minnesota has developed a COVID-19 antibody test that will be available first to frontline health care workers in M Health Fairview’s Bethesda hospital. 

The lab of Marc Jenkins, PhD, a Regents and Distinguished McKnight University professor at the Medical School and director of the Center for Immunology, completed the initial work to ensure the tests were fully validated. In less than three weeks, Jenkins’ team both completed the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA, that allowed for detection of COVID-19 antibodies, as well as testing its accuracy. 

“We are fortunate that we have colleagues like Fang Li in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences who quickly isolated the molecular basis of this virus and provided us with samples of the key proteins,” said Jenkins. 

Fang Li, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, was among the first to publish a peer-reviewed article in Nature detailing the underlying structure of COVID-19. 

On March 21, Li provided protein material to the Jenkins Lab, and work began. 

By April 9, the Jenkins team turned over its test to the U of M’s Advanced Research and Diagnostic Lab led by Amy Karger, MD, where the test was repeated and further validated with additional samples. 

“What makes this test different is that it was developed here in Minnesota, meaning we aren’t relying on an outside supply chain for kit parts from another part of the world,” said Tim Schacker, MD, Vice Dean for Research at the Medical School. “And, the test has had good results with people who are ten days out from their symptoms giving positive immune response results.” 


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