Roche unveils three new monkeypox tests as cases rise
Health experts maintain that the current monkeypox situation is a stark contrast to Covid. Even so, a handful of biotechs have sprung to action, including Roche, who quickly developed a set of three tests to detect the virus.
Roche and subsidiary TIB Molbiol unveiled their Lightmix Modular Virus test kits on Wednesday — three unique test kits that can help track the spread of monkeypox.
The first kit detects orthopoxviruses, including all monkeypox viruses originating from the West African and Central African forms of the virus. The second kit is a specific test that detects monkeypox viruses only, while the third simultaneously tests for both orthopoxviruses and monkeypox viruses.
“Diagnostic tools are crucial for responding to and ultimately controlling emerging public health challenges as they advance response measures such as tracing efforts and treatment strategies,” Roche Diagnostics CEO Thomas Schinecker said in a statement.
The test kits are now available for research use in most countries around the world, according to Roche.
Monkeypox has been around since 1958 when two outbreaks occurred in colonies of research monkeys. Around 20 countries have reported recent outbreaks, with cases piling up mainly in Europe, according to a Reuters report. The US confirmed its first case in Massachusetts just last week, and the CDC is investigating several other potential cases.
BARDA said last week it would shell out $119 million in an agreement with Bavarian Nordic to exercise options for a freeze-dried stockpile of Jynneos, which covers both monkeypox and smallpox. And today, the company announced it secured another vaccine deal with an undisclosed country.
The Danish company’s stock $BVNRY was up more than 10% on Wednesday afternoon, pricing in at $9.65 per share.
Meanwhile, Emergent snagged the rights to Tembexa, Chimerix’s smallpox treatment for all ages that was approved in 2021. And Moderna is testing its own vaccine candidate in preclinical studies, according to Reuters.
Earlier this week, Belgium became the first country to institute a mandatory quarantine period of 21 days for confirmed monkeypox patients.
This wouldn’t be the first time that the US has faced a monkeypox outbreak. Cases cropped up in 2003 after the US received a shipment of animals from Ghana. That outbreak was contained with testing and vaccination, according to the CDC.
Norman Baylor, who once directed the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review and now serves as a consultant, told Endpoints News that he doubts the US will need to roll out widespread vaccines. And he emphasized that the situation now is much different than when Covid-19 arrived in the US back in 2020.
“The good news is we have a vaccine. Remember with Covid, we had nothing. We were starting from scratch,” he said.
In the US, monkeypox cases are confirmed by orthopoxvirus testing, which requires a dry lesion swab specimen according to the CDC. Samples are collected by vigorously brushing a patient’s lesions, which are then sent to a network of laboratories for testing.