Bioanalysis Zone

COVID-19 and microsampling: from patient-centric testing to drug development and beyond


Recently the National Institutes of Health (MD, USA) announced a study to quantify undetected cases of COVID-19 using antibody tests on blood samples collected in microsampling devices [1]. We asked microsampling expert Hua Li (Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, CT, USA) for her perspectives on the potential benefits and applications of patient-centric microsampling strategies amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

You can read more about Hua’s research using the Mitra® microsampling platform for pharmacokinetic bioanalysis in her Bioanalysis publication.

Hua Li photo“I majored in Biotechnology in college back in China and then earned a Master’s degree in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of Kansas (KS, USA). After graduation, I started my career as a research associate and laboratory manager at the Stem Cell Center of Yale University (CT, USA). My main roles included investigating the essential proteins that play a critical role in the division and differentiation of mouse testes stem cells, as well as administrative responsibilities for a laboratory of around 12 people including graduate students, post-docs and laboratory technicians. Since 2008, my career has been focusing on the quantitation of pharmacokinetics (PK) and pharmacodynamics (PD) study of protein therapeutics. Currently I am a bioanalytical research scientist in the NBE PK Group in the Biotherapeutics Discovery department at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals (CT, USA).”

QWhat is the importance of the NIH study aiming to quantify undetected cases of COVID-19 and how do the antibody detection tests work?

This new antibody detection study is critical to understand the extent of the coronavirus spread in the general population. Until recently, the reporting of US cases of COVID-19 has been determined by the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a person’s airways. Unfortunately, this test does not tell whether a person was previously infected with the novel virus and recovered, thereby missing many cases in the reporting of infections. The new antibody detection test uses an ELISA protein binding assay to determine if there are anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG and IgM antibodies in the blood, which is an indication of a prior infection. As Dr Anthony Fauci (Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH) said, “This study will give us a clearer picture of the true magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States by telling us how many people in different communities have been infected without knowing it. These crucial data will help us measure the impact of our public health efforts now and guide our COVID-19 response moving forward [1].”

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