OraSure receives $630K to help develop oral test for coronavirus antibody

Bethlehem’s OraSure Technologies Inc. received nearly $630,000 to help develop an oral test for coronavirus antibodies.

The funds come from a contract with the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop an enzyme-linked immunosorbent Assay, or ELISA, which can be used for the detection of human anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in oral fluid specimens. There currently are no oral fluid-based COVID antibody tests of the sort. The product is expected to increase laboratory COVID-19 antibody testing capacity.

OraSure said the support from BARDA will help it complete development of the ELISA and file for Emergency Use Authorization from the Food & Drug Administration to enter the U.S market.

The test could help identify people who had a COVID-19 infection, even without symptoms, potentially allowing them to safely return to work or other activities if data show antibody development translates to future immunity.

“The coronavirus pandemic is complicated and fast moving. It will take a variety of tests to get it under control,” said OraSure President and CEO Stephen S. Tang in a press release. “Understanding who is contagious and who has potentially protective antibodies will be crucial as the country continues reopening the economy and returning to everyday life. We believe that the combination of the OraSure antibody and antigen tests along with our sample collection capabilities, can give people insight into their COVID-19 status across the infection spectrum. We are proud to bring our proven expertise with oral fluid collection and testing to this global pandemic.”

This is the second COVID-related test for which the company has received BARDA funding. The first, a rapid, antigen in-home oral fluid self-test, was announced in April.


Patient First adds telehealth, COVID-19 testing services

Regional urgent care provider Patient First is offering telehealth appointments for its patients in Pennsylvania, and drive-up COVID-19 testing at a number of its locations in the state.

In a press release the health care company said that telehealth services are available for anyone 18 or older who was previously a patient at one of the Patient First brick-and-mortar clinics in the past five years.

Patient First now offers telehealth services and COVID-19 testing. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

Patients can call ahead to determine eligibility for a telehealth appointment. Eligible patients will be connected to a physician who will review medical history and conduct a virtual exam.

If a prescription is needed the physician can electronically transmit it to the patient’s pharmacy.

For patients who have insurance that covers telehealth visits, Patient First will bill the insurer. A routine visit will cost $75, and $35 for a follow up, for patients without telehealth coverage.

Covid-19 testing

Patient First has also begun offering drive-up COVID-19 testing at a number of its locations.

Sites with drive-up testing capabilities include the location on Schoenersville Road in Bethlehem; Papermill Road in Wyomissing; Jonestown Road in Harrisburg and East Germantown Pike in East Norriton in Montgomery County.

Testing is by appointment only.  Appointments are made by calling a designated testing center.

Patients will be asked about symptoms and risk factors to determine if they meet screening criteria based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Criteria include the presence of COVID-19 related symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and a fever.

Those who work in health care or need a test to determine eligibility to return to work or to obtain needed health care treatments, such as cancer treatment, are also eligible.

Samples are sent to a third-party reference lab for testing.  Results will generally be available in about two to four days and will be accessible on Patient First’s Patient Portal.

Most testing is covered by health care insurance. The cost is $90 for those who are self-paying.

Testing is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

Patient First begins drive-up COVID-19 testing at Berks location

Patient First is providing drive-up COVID-19 testing at its location along Paper Mill Road in Wyomissing in Berks County.

Tests are by appointment only.

Patient First location along Paper Mill Road in Wyomissing. PHOTO/SUBMITTED 

Patient First, a Virginia-based chain of walk-in urgent care centers, is offering the COVID-19 testing at the Wyomissing site by appointment only.

According to a statement from the Virginia-based chain of walk-in urgent care centers, appointments can be made by calling the designated testing center.  Patients will be asked about symptoms and risk factors to determine whether they meet screening criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Patients must have one or more symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat), or be a healthcare worker or first responder to qualify.

Tests will be conducted 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

Test samples are collected outside the center and patients may remain in their vehicles.  The staff member collecting samples is equipped with proper personal protective equipment, including an N95 mask, gloves, eye protection, and gown.

Samples will be sent to a third-party lab for testing, with results available in two to four days. A nurse will call patients once results are available, to share results, provide guidance and answer questions.

There is no out-of-pocket cost for COVID-19 testing for insured patients. For self-pay patients, the cost is $90 plus a separate bill from the lab.

Appointments are not needed for visits unrelated to COVID-19 testing. All Patient First Medical Centers, including the designated testing centers, remain open on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., every day for patients who have an urgent need for medical or injury care, the company says.