Singapore-based biotech firm, JN Medsys announces that it has developed a new PCR kit that detects for SARS-CoV-2 and identifies if the Omicron variant is present. It can be used on upper respiratory samples and the results can be available in just 1 hour.
The Omicron variant, which was first reported in South Africa and classified by World Health Organization (WHO) as a Variant of Concern, has since spread to more than 50 countries worldwide. The variant has over 30 mutations in the spike protein, thereby affecting its binding to human cells and resulting in immune escape. This makes the variant more infectious, and may reduce the efficacy of current vaccines.
Most commercial PCR kits remain effective in detecting Omicron but are unable to distinguish this variant from the rest. To confirm if a positive case has been infected by Omicron, next generation sequencing (NGS) is necessary which requires between 24 to 96 hours to generate results.
The new kit from JN Medsys, named ProTect™ Omivar RT-qPCR Kit, is highly specific for the Omicron variant, covering > 99% of all Omicron strains, making it highly accurate for detecting the variant. Using PCR as a confirmatory tool for Omicron variant detection is faster and cheaper, and can be used as an alternative to NGS, making it attractive for resource-limited regions where NGS is not readily accessible.
The company has been active in supplying Covid-19 PCR test kits since the start of the pandemic. One of the kits – the ProTect™ Covid-19 RT-PCR Kit 2.0 has received approval from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and is already in use by several laboratories in Singapore and overseas.
Dr. Johnson Ng, CEO of JN Medsys said: “The emergence of Omicron greatly impacted the reopening of borders and the resumption of activities in many countries. Many countries have been experiencing new infection waves or will be soon experiencing it. Knowing if a Covid-19 infection is caused by the Omicron variant can provide important information for controlling of the pandemic. qPCR provides a faster and cheaper tool for Omicron variant detection as compared to NGS, thereby playing a crucial role in the management of the pandemic.”
JN Medsys is also partnering local laboratories to offer the new kit as a confirmatory test for Omicron detection.