Biocept Inc (NASDAQ:BIOC) has reached an agreement with Aegea Biotechnologies Inc, a privately held life sciences company, to co-develop a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay to detect the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The highly sensitive assay, which Aegea will design, will be based on the core Switch-Blocker technology used by Biocept in its suite of oncology assays.
The test is designed to increase the sensitivity in detecting the virus and provide additional information on specific strain types. As part of the deal, Biocept has the first option to negotiate a license agreement for any assay the agreement produces for commercialization in its Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified high-complexity molecular lab.
"This project further expands on Biocept's initiatives in the COVID-19 PCR testing market and highlights our capabilities to develop high-complexity molecular-based assays based on our core Switch-Blocker technology for multiple applications, including potentially COVID-19," Biocept CEO Michael Nall said in a statement.
READ: Biocept says lab has processed 6,500 COVID-19 specimens as demand rises for its specimen collection kits
"This agreement provides Biocept with new incremental revenue for R&D development services and, if successfully developed, an option to expand our COVID-19 testing capabilities with a next-generation COVID-19 PCR assay that we believe will have competitive advantages," he added.
The assay is designed to detect low copy numbers of viral RNA, therefore potentially detecting the viral load at much lower levels than conventional PCR-based assays, the company said.
"Working with Biocept better enables the potential rapid development of this new PCR-based COVID-19 assay," said Aegea Chief Business Officer Stella Sung. "Biocept has successfully utilized Switch-Blocker technology to test for rare oncology-related genetic mutations in tens of thousands of clinical samples. Moreover, Biocept's CLIA laboratory is actively involved in COVID-19 PCR testing, which makes them the ideal partner for Aegea."
To date, Biocept has processed more than 6,500 coronavirus specimens using its existing PCR technology at its lab.
Contact Andrew Kessel at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kessel