Coronavirus cases continue to rise in the US this month as regulations lift, causing overambitious governors in several states to backpedal on previous claims. While the rest of the world prepares for a potential second wave, the US continues to struggle to get COVID-19 under control, calling forth urgent demand for rapid tests, treatments, and vaccine candidates. For the last several months, biotech companies big and small have been working to develop solutions to help curb the spread and treat those who have been infected. Vaxart, Inc. (NASDAQ:VXRT) is working on a potential vaccine, while Gilead Sciences Inc (NASDAQ:GILD) is focused on creating a treatment to shorten recovery time for severely ill COVID-19 patients. At the same time, Hologic, Inc. (NASDAQ:HOLX), Roche Holdings (OTCQX:RHHBY), and LexaGene Holdings Inc. (TSXV:LXG) (OTCQB:LXXGF) are creating COVID-19 tests that promise to deliver faster and more accurate results.
WHO Applauds the Efforts of COVID-19 Test Developers
In response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, along with shortages of laboratory-based molecular testing capacity, numerous biotech companies have developed rapid and easy-to-use devices to facilitate testing outside of laboratory settings. These test kits are based on either the detection of proteins from the COVID-19 virus in respiratory samples or the detection of human antibodies generated in response to infection in a patient’s blood or serum. The World Health Organization (WHO) is applauding the efforts of test developers, but with cases in the US and around the world rising, the need for faster and more accurate tests grows.
On January 27, long before the viral outbreak was labeled a pandemic by the WHO, LexaGene (LXG.V) (LXXGF.QB) addressed how its technology can be used to identify novel pathogens such as coronavirus and the company has continued to make headway in its development.
LexaGene just introduced its new flagship product MiQLab™, a fully automated analyzer that can screen samples for up to 27 different pathogens and/or antimicrobial resistance factors at once and produces results in about one hour.
MiQLab™ offers a set of features not currently available in the market today. In particular, it is open-access, meaning those who currently spend hours manually performing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) because they have custom testing needs, will now be able to have MiQLab run those same tests in a fully automated fashion.
What’s more, LexaGene (LXG.V) (LXXGF.QB) MiQLab technology can be configured to process large volume samples, for extreme sensitivity, which is critical as COVID-19 cases rise.
But, what could really set LexaGene’s COVID-19 tests apart from the rest is the price. According to the press release, the company expects that volume manufacturing will keep the costs for its consumables substantially lower than competing technologies, allowing LexaGene to maintain healthy profit margins even when selling to cost-sensitive markets.
Meanwhile, Swiss multinational healthcare company Roche Holdings (OTCQX:RHHBY) is ramping up the production of its antibody tests to meet ever-growing demand but is having a hard time keeping up. On March 13, 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the company’s cobas® SARS-CoV-2 test and the product became widely available in the US and around the world.
Medical technology company Hologic, Inc. (NASDAQ:HOLX) has also developed COVID-19 tests for the growing market and has received EUA from the FDA for two of its products: its Panther Fusion® SARS-CoV-2 test and its Aptima SARS-CoV-2 assay.
Coronavirus Vaccines and Treatments Continue Moving Through Development
Although the world may still be months or potentially years away from a plausible COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA has created a treatment acceleration program to help speed up the process and drugmakers have continued to progress.
Research-based biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences Inc (NASDAQ:GILD) is at the forefront of the coronavirus-treatment race after clinical trials of its investigational treatment Remdesivir revealed the drug’s ability to accelerate the recovery of advanced COVID-19. Remdesivir, which is administered through infusions, is the only drug that has been granted EUA from the FDA for the treatment of coronavirus infections.
On June 29, Gilead Sciences Inc announced a $2,340 price tag for the five-day treatment for people covered by government health programs in the US and other developed countries and $3,120 for those covered by private insurance.
At the forefront of the COVID-19 vaccine initiative is clinical-stage biotechnology company Vaxart, Inc. (NASDAQ:VXRT). The company, which is developing an oral COVID-19 vaccine, has been selected to participate in a non-human primate (NHP) challenge study that is being organized and funded by Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine-acceleration program aimed to provide substantial quantities of a safe, effective vaccine for Americans by January 2021.
Until a viable vaccine is brought to the market, ongoing demand for rapid COVID-19 tests like LexaGene’s (TSXV:LXG) (OTCQB:LXXGF) MiQLab™ will likely continue as countries across the globe brace for a potential second wave.