Timaru company South Pacific Sera to produce Covid-19 test kits

A Timaru company has signed up with an Auckland diagnostic biotech company to manufacture Covid-19 test kits.

“It’s still early days,” William Rolleston, director of the Washdyke-based South Pacific Sera, said of the deal with Pictor.

“We’re just in the tech transfer stage to do the job for Pictor.

“They’re giving us the finer details of how the kits are made. You don’t bang them out in five minutes. There’s a very careful process to go through.

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“These are long games we’re playing, and we’ll expand our capacity.”

He said Pictor knew of South Pacific Sera’s ability to produce the kits.

“The biotechnology industry is a small world. They were aware of our capabilities to a high standard.”

Pictor said the test kits could make New Zealand’s border restrictions safer in the battle to control Covid-19.

“New Zealand needs to be aware that achieving very high vaccination levels will simply not be enough in the medium term,” Pictor chief operating officer Howard Moore said.

“The Delta variant is relentless and as jurisdictions overseas have already discovered, revaccinations will be required for many people to keep them, their families, workplaces and communities safe.”

Pictor chief operations officer Howard Moore says high vaccinations will not be enough.

Moore said the company’s low-cost, high performance test could help determine when antibody levels following vaccination had declined to a level where revaccination was required.

“By using Pictor’s antibody test before New Zealanders travel overseas, health authorities could confirm whether a person’s antibodies are adequate to allow them to safely avoid a mandatory MIQ stay when they return to New Zealand.

“An antigen test taken at the same time would provide data to further reduce the level of risk and improve certainty.”

“If international travellers were to take our test on arrival in New Zealand then health authorities would know whether they have antibodies as a result of previous infection or if they have been fully vaccinated.

“And if they are fully vaccinated, the results would let authorities know whether the level of antibodies are adequate to combat reinfection. In other words, we would know what category of risk each arrival represents and be able to act accordingly.”

Moore said frontline workers such as border and healthcare professionals, truck drivers and port workers would ideally undergo the Pictor test three weeks after vaccination to ensure it had caused the body to produce the antibodies needed to combat the virus.

“Then, four months later, another Pictor test would determine whether a booster vaccination is required.

“Pictor’s test would also enable employers of workers in high-risk roles to be proactive in protecting staff and lessen the likelihood of the Delta variant reappearing in workplaces thought to be safe because all staff are fully vaccinated.”

Moore said the company’s antibody test had produced “outstanding” results in an alpha trial, and had been registered in Medsafe’s database for marketing and use in New Zealand.

An Auckland testing laboratory would be offering the Pictor test before the end of November.