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Roche joins Moderna to include antibody test in COVID vaccine trial

Test believed to play a role in assessing if or when revaccination is needed

Moderna's logo is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration.   © Reuters

ZURICH (Reuters) -- Roche is partnering with Moderna to include a COVID-19 antibody test in the mRNA specialist's ongoing vaccine trials, the Swiss drugmaker said on Wednesday, potentially demonstrating if the vaccine is working.

Roche said the test, which received U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use approval in November, can provide quantitative evidence of the presence and levels of antibodies that develop in response to Moderna's vaccine candidate.

Moderna's vaccine, which in late-stage trials with more than 30,000 participants showed efficacy of 94% in preventing COVID-19, is designed to trigger an antibody response to proteins found on the coronavirus spike's receptor binding domain, the part of the virus that gains entry to human cells.

Roche said its test, conducted in a laboratory setting and requiring a blood draw, can establish a correlation between vaccine-induced protection and levels of receptor-binding domain antibodies.

"This could play a role in assessing if, or when, an individual needs revaccination, or in helping to answer other clinically relevant questions," Roche said in a statement.

Until now, demand for so-called molecular tests to detect active COVID-19 disease from Roche and other manufacturers has far exceeded supply, though there has been less demand for so-called antibody tests that help determine if a person has been exposed to the new coronavirus and has recovered.

Roche hopes new tests like the one it is pairing with Moderna's trial will help boost demand for antibody tests, too.

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