Knoxville lab helps businesses with COVID-19 reopening plans

EDP Biotech says antibody test could develop safer reopening guidelines.
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 11:35 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - COVID-19 cases continue to rise, which puts the pressure on business managers developing reopening plans. A Knoxville lab, which normally researches early cancer detection products, switched gears to help some of these businesses.

“We want to try to get back to normal as soon as possible,” Eric Mayer, the CEO of EDP Biotech in West Knoxville, said. “We want things to stay open and not go the other way. But we’ve got to make sure we’re doing it smart and making data-driven decisions.”

EDP Biotech is using their lab to help develop those data-driven decisions using COVID-19 antibody tests. The lab developed a test that can be administered to hundreds of people a day and get results in at least four days. However, Mayer said they can soon get it down to two days. Other tests take up to a week or two weeks for results.

“As the doors reopen and as employees come back to work. The test can answer who has been infected and who hasn’t.”

Mayer said based off the results, they can help businesses develop the best social distancing policies. For example, Kevin Dinsmore, who works on business development, said they can figure out where best to place air filters.

“Different ideas they have can be tried and see if it’s working,” he said. Then EDP Biotech will come back and re-test.

Mayer said there’s a higher need for diagnostic testing, which tells you if you currently have the virus, right now. But he added that antibody testing, which tells you if you’ve had the virus in the past or immunity, will have a much higher demand as more businesses open and cases plateau. The testing can also improve research on immunity to the virus.

EDP Biotech is also working with local and state health departments to develop quicker diagnostic tests.

“There’s a lot of cutting edge technology taking place right here in town. A lot of it flies under the radar,” Mayer said.

Another example of that technology can be found in Oak Ridge at Assured Bio Labs. Edward Sobek, the president, said he’s working with EDP Biotech. However, his lab developed technology that can detect the virus in the air or on surfaces.

“This stuff isn’t staying in one spot. It’s moving around, and that’s kind of scary,” he said. “All these things have to come together. Employers need to understand how to protect their employees, and it has to do with cleaning, who has antibodies, who’s been infected, and how recently?”

Assured Bio Labs has been busy working with businesses in New York as many look to reopen in September.

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