Where the Science Leads Us: SARS-CoV-2

By March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic, every major multinational pharmaceutical company, innovative biotechnology company, governmental, and nongovernmental body focused on the development of safe and effective vaccine candidates.

How did we become the company with an unrivaled expertise and capacity to design assays and test for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine efficacy, running 50,000 samples per month on assays developed and qualified in-house?

Our team of expert scientists navigated challenges in real time while delivering high-quality data for critical decisions to expedite the world’s vaccine assay development programs during this modern pandemic. Proactively, in February 2020, before the official declaration of the pandemic, we reallocated our entire team to develop any and all immunological tools and reagents required to produce the assays the world would need to combat SARS-CoV-2. With our scientific discipline and agility, we adapted to the new world of SARS-CoV-2 immunological research.

Our ability to forecast what’s next in vaccine assay development allowed us to work in parallel to our clients’ vaccine development. Leveraging our previously established partnership with Public Health England (PHE) Porton Down, we collaborated on assays that would evaluate the efficacy of the soon-to-be engineered vaccine candidates.

We focused on critical protein targets of the SARS-CoV-2 virus associated with measuring the virus present in sera. Then, in-house, our outstanding protein scientists developed and characterized the protein subunits of SARS-CoV-2 and critical reagents needed for performing assays to measure humoral and cellular response. 

Testing a pandemic respiratory virus is logistically difficult as it must be handled in at least a BSL-3 facility. Our protein sciences team also constructed the SARS-CoV-2 pseudo-virus to allow for the viral particles to be handled in a BSL-2 laboratory. This allowed the Nexelis and PHE teams flexibility to develop, qualify, and validate the wild-type plaque reduction neutralization tests (PRNT), micro-neutralization (MNA), and pseudotyped virus neutralization assays (PNA) for SARS-CoV-2.

Going above and beyond their initial development, our scientists were able to ensure these assays could subsequently be scaled to handle larger sample numbers. Through collaboration and ingenuity, our researchers were able to reach a capacity of testing 50,000 samples per month in BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratories. That number remains unrivaled in SARS-CoV-2 vaccine assay testing.

Our scientific excellence was recently recognized by Nature Protocols, which published our study “Quantification of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody by wild-type plaque reduction neutralization, microneutralization and pseudotyped virus neutralization assays.” A blind survey from Duke University also verified the robustness of Nexelis’ neutralization assays compared to our primary competitors.

To learn more, you can read our complete SARS-CoV-2 case study “Quantification of neutralizing antibody for COVID-19 vaccine development” that showcases our agility and ingenuity, as evidenced by our unique position within the industry, world-class immunology sciences, broad scope of services, and collaborative mindset.