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2022: The Year We Implement COVID-19 Lessons Into Practice

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Since the start of the pandemic, we have worked tirelessly to address the rising global demands caused by the spread of COVID-19. Today, it is important to emphasize that developing the right diagnostic tools and technologies and then leveraging those across the globe is ultimately a public health imperative – one that can best be accomplished when countries and organizations join as one.

Over the last two years, we have learned that speed of mobilization is key. Moreover, the incredible power of public-private partnerships helps forge vital connections that enable widespread access to testing for hard-to-reach communities. We have seen how sustained coordination with government, regional organizations and corporate partners can support an innovative model for maximizing lab capacity to meet rising testing demands from schools and underserved populations. And the list goes on and on.

As we seek a better tomorrow, here are three predictions from global life science and diagnostics company, PerkinElmer, that will lead to better health outcomes.

Collaboration: Together, we will build a better tomorrow   

Arvind Kothandaraman, managing director of specialty diagnostics, PerkinElmer

COVID-19 has urged scientists to work more creatively and collaboratively than ever before. For decades, public-private partnerships have demonstrated tremendous value in the areas of newborn screening, food and water testing. Today, and for years to come, such foundational collaborative efforts will be critical in the fight against forces that pose a threat to global health. As COVID-19 transitions to an endemic disease, we’ll see a concerted effort within and across scientific communities, governments and other vested parties to prevent future pandemics. A global surveillance model for timely identification, tracking and mitigation of future outbreaks is an eagerly expected outcome in 2022.

Beyond pandemic management and prevention, collaboration will further propel important discoveries in the field of personalized medicine. Using next generation sequencing, scientists are learning more each day about the human genome and how certain genetic variants may make a person more likely to develop certain diseases or conditions. This advancement has already armed clinicians with information to improve patient care, including recommendations that have proved to be lifesaving.

A collaborative mentality also has high potential to accelerate vast improvements in operational aspects including availability, accessibility, ease of use and automation to maximize the impact of healthcare solutions. 

T cells will become increasingly significant in infectious disease diagnosis and research

Peter Wrighton-Smith, chief executive officer at Oxford Immunotec Ltd, a PerkinElmer company

The T cell response to both infection with and vaccination against COVID-19 has demonstrated the key role these often overlooked components of the immune system play in protection from disease. Up to the start of the current pandemic, antibodies have been the primary focus and the tools used to monitor the effectiveness of COVID vaccination and to help to understand if individuals are likely to be protected from re-infection or severe disease. However, T cells are increasingly seen as a reliable indicator of immunity to SARS-CoV-2, being more resistant to the effects of mutations and giving a more long-lasting indication of immunity.

2022 will see a continued increase in our understanding of the role of T cells in infection and in immunity against infection. More diagnostic tools will be developed which target T cells to complement tools like the T-SPOT.COVID test, a sensitive ELISPOT test which is CE marked and is already being used to assess the T cell immune response to both infection and vaccination across Europe.

The availability of this kind of simplified ELISPOT technology will mean that T cells will become more widespread in their use in vaccine development and in understanding immunity in a wide range of infectious diseases.

New technologies focused on antibody levels gain traction

Iswariya Venkataraman, associate director of scientific affairs, EUROIMMUN US, a PerkinElmer company

COVID-19 has sparked the curiosity of researchers, clinicians, and even the general population about how to measure antibody levels post-infection or vaccination. In such a rapidly evolving and changing environment, the development of surrogate virus neutralization tests that can detect neutralizing antibodies against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 is fortunately gaining steam. These assays can be completed in 1–3 hours without the need for Biosafety Level 3 facilities or live virus or cells, making them accessible in both research and clinical applications.

Currently, the FDA has granted emergency use authorization for two of the surrogate virus neutralization tests for its use in in-vitro diagnostics against SARS-CoV-2, and there likely will be more advancements in the upcoming months and years. Such tests may help support vaccine efficacy evaluation, herd immunity, protective immunity assessments and more.

The ability to measure neutralizing antibody against a virus accessible to all scientists and researchers without the need for complex laboratory facilities, resources and equipment will be a significant advancement in testing for infectious diseases during and post-COVID-19.