NTL Biologica offers COVID antibody testing
From stem cell to COVID
NTL Biologica - a small enterprise producing bone marrow growing kits - found itself in a precarious position when all of their orders were cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the core business suspended, the company directors Ian Graney and Hyun Min Oh made a decision to use the company's expertise and state-of-the art equipment to contribute to the fight against the virus, and open a new line of business - antibody testing 'on the go'.
The company's antibody testing takes place on a bus, this means that instead of asking people to travel to a location or go to a drive-through testing centre, NTL can bring the testing facility to the community, minimising the risks associated with travel. The antibody test requires 20 microliters of blood to be drawn for the result to be known as soon as 15 minutes later.
Helping companies assess risk
Ian and his company carry out the testing for corporate customers, but also for communities who want to know how many of their employees have had the disease. By finding out who has had COVID-19 and who may have developed antibodies, the employers are in a better position to assess the risk to their staff and adjust their policies and procedures, for example moving employees to or from customer-facing roles and deciding for or against travel. The anonymised data can also be used to inform the wider state of the pandemic by tracking the development of immunity in large groups.
Support from SIGHT and the University
The bus used for testing is part-funded by the SIGHT programme grant. Ian has been very involved in this ERDF-funded programme, run jointly by the University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth Hospital Trust and the Wessex CRN, engaging with other company members and supporting other SMEs operating in the healthcare technology sector.
Despite the challenging environment for healthcare companies, Ian thinks that businesses like NTL have the opportunity to not only survive but also make a meaningful contribution to the fight against COVID-19: 'Take a deep breath, don't panic. There's a lot to be done and there are a lot of businesses who are easily geared to becoming part of the solution in the fight against Coronavirus in a small or a larger extent'
The company is hoping to soon start a clinical trial with the Portsmouth Technologies Trial Unit, in collaboration with the University of Portsmouth, working on an exciting new project in stem cell application in orthopaedics. Ian is keen on strengthening the company's ties with the institution: 'We are very grateful for the support of SIGHT and we are proud to be working with the University of Portsmouth'.