Orbis Diagnostics works to re-open borders

October 15, 2020

COVID-19 has significantly impacted our ability to move about safely – within our own communities, countries and internationally.  The social and economic implications of this continue to be devastating. While people want assurance that life will return to normal, there is no clear end in sight. Currently, widespread vaccination is our main hope of returning to normality. However, due to limited availability, vaccine roll outs are expected to take until 2024. It is also unlikely that the first series of vaccines will protect everyone who receives them – protection may not last beyond a year or two at best. Vaccination by itself could provide a false sense of security.  

Dr Matheus Vargas and Prof Cather Simpson

Orbis Diagnostics, a Pacific Channel Fund II portfolio company, is aiming to reduce this global and economic impact through providing peace of mind through immunity testing will re-enable movement during a pandemic. Immunity testing is the solution to opening our borders in a low risk and sustainable manner. Determining one’s immunity to COVID-19 will then inform whether they are safe to travel and by-pass the need to quarantine in the destination country.

Orbis has adapted its existing testing tool that was originally developed to detect proteins, to enable the rapid, precise, and cost-effective detection of a person’s COVID-19 immunity status. This system is designed to be robust, easy to use and portable. Designed to be about the size of a desktop printer it will support widespread screening of immunity at international borders such as airports and seaports as well as in community locations to protect high-risk individuals such as hospitals, community health clinics, aged-care facilities. Testing is easy. People will undergo a very painless, quick finger prick test to provide an extremely small amount of blood – this sample will be placed on a cartridge resembling a CD to be analysed. The system will be able to screen up to 30 individuals simultaneously – taking less than 15 minutes for the results.  

We are pleased that Orbis has successfully transferred its first anti-COVID antibody assay to its proprietary microfluidic system. This assay can now be performed in less than 20 minutes, producing accurate quantitative detection of anti-COVID antibodies within a 5uL whole blood sample. Orbis’ system can rapidly detect antibody levels as low as 20ng/mL, this sensitivity provides confidence that Orbis’ antibody assay will be able to detect immunity once a consensus threshold has been announced. This is a positive and promising development for Orbis, representing a significant milestone on its journey to deliver a solution to travellers around the world. Orbis has partnered with a one of the world’s largest biometrics and airport security systems company to assist with this goal.

Orbis Diagnostics is raising NZD10 million to finalise the product and begin manufacture for a May 2021 product launch into airports.