By Kristy Dorsey

Arrayjet has overhauled its screening technology in Edinburgh to create a diagnostic programme to monitor large numbers of people to determine which are developing immunity to Covid-19.

The Scottish firm has formed a partnership with US-based research company CDI Laboratories to create an automated platform based on the ArrayPlex technology, which was originally developed to find immunotherapy drugs for cancer. Using this, a single machine can test samples from 18,000 patients every 24 hours for antibody signatures which indicate that a person has already been exposed to Covid-19.

The partners say this kind of “population-scale” diagnostic programme will help scientists better understand the behaviour of the virus, and speed up global efforts to develop a vaccine. Following successful initial trials of the screening process, they are now seeking to enlist other companies and research centres in its use.

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“As disease control and vaccine development measures continue apace across the globe, there is a requirement to understand and monitor large cohorts of test populations to identify which individuals are developing immunity,” Arrayjet chief executive Iain McWilliam said.

“Our ability to mass screen 18,000 patients, per instrument, every 24 hours with ArrayPlex will help provide datasets to epidemiologists and virologists to support their work understanding the complexities of virulence within the population.”

Established in 2000 to commercialise technology originally developed by academics from the University of Edinburgh, Arrayjet provides instruments and services to the global diagnostic, pharmaceutical and life sciences industries. It specialises in microarray technology, which enhances drug discovery programmes.

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Using reagents from CDI Laboratories, ArrayPlex prints thousands of droplets of synthetically made Covid-19 viral proteins on “biological microchips” that are used to profile the immune responses of patients. Because the disease is highly contagious, handling large numbers of patients samples is particularly hazardous.

“We are dealing with an extremely virulent strain of coronavirus, so it is important that the process is highly automated to reduce the risks of technical teams coming into contact with infectious samples,” Mr McWilliam said.