Several German Firms Working on Corona Tests

April 2020

In the global efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, testing has proven to be a main challenge. Rapid, accurate tests for the virus, which causes the Sars-CoV-2 respiratory illness, are seen as a sine qua non for societies beginning to lift the many corona-related restrictions.

There are two types of test. The first – so-called PCR tests – tries to ascertain directly whether patients currently have the virus.

“This sort of test is supposed to reliably come back positive if a patient is infected, but not sound false alarms if a patient is healthy,” says Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) health expert Gregor Kemper. “With Sars-CoV-2, PCR tests fulfill those criteria especially well and are considered the gold standard of exactitude.

Bosch: Together with Northern Irish biomedical company Randox, the subsidiary Bosch Healthcare Solutions of the German technology giant is developing a PCR test it says meets WHO standards and is 95 percent accurate. The test, which uses swabs of patients’ noses and throats to detect the virus directly, can be performed in doctors’ offices and yields results in 2.5 hours without having to be sent to a laboratory, Bosch says. The test is set to be released in mid-April.

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There are also so-called ELISA tests that indirectly indicate past infections.

“To prevent the disease from spreading further, a test should be able to examine a maximum number of people in uncomplicated fashion and in a short time,” says Kemper. “Here, rapid tests that detect antibodies in the blood are brilliant. They’re easy to use and yield results quickly.”

Senova/ Leibniz Institute for Photonic Technologies (Leibniz-IPHT): The Weimar company Senova and the Jena research institute (Leibniz-IPHT) have come up with a blood test for anti-Sars-CoV-2 antibodies that they claims takes only ten minutes. The test would not necessarily detect infected patients who have yet to develop antibodies but could help determine what percentage of the population is immune. It is already available.

Euroimmun: The Lübeck company says it has developed a blood and antibody test and made it available to laboratories throughout Germany. The test is available by order of a general physician or privately for a price of between 14-18 euros. It, too, does not reveal whether patients might have recently contracted the coronavirus, if they have yet to develop antibodies. As a rule it takes antibodies around 10 days to develop antibodies after contact with the virus.

PharmAct: The Berlin company has produced another “Covid-19 rapid test” that detects antibodies in patients’ blood. The company says results are ready in 20 minutes. The caveats applying to the previous two tests also apply to the PharmAct procedure. It is available in German pharmacies for €39.95.

Other German companies still developing tests. They include nal von minden, Immunidiagnostik and Seramun Diagnostica. So what are the strengths of Germany as a test-producing location?

“The first test of all was developed in Berlin,” Kemper says. “And most German products also have the European Economic Area CE marking that indicates conformity with health and safety standards.”

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