RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Advanced Animal Diagnostics (AAD) usually makes tests to help farmers monitor the health of their livestock. But in the age of coronavirus, the Research Triangle Park company is pivoting.

The young ag tech firm is “repurposing” its QScout blood test platform, which is usually used to detect disease in cattle, to now be used for humans in the fight against COVID-19.

AAD is preparing to file an application for emergency-use authorization for the test with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Our focus right now is how quickly can we get it into the hands of those who need it,” said Joy Parr Drach, the company’s president and chief executive officer since 2009. “Our background developing livestock tests makes us uniquely suited to help now, because livestock producers and first responders need the same thing: very fast, simple-to-use tests.

QScout testing system

For many years, farmers have used AAD’s QScout two-minute blood test to provide a snapshot of a dairy cow’s immune system and detect early subclinical mastitis. The test runs on AAD’s portable “lab-in-a-box” diagnostic platform, the QScout Farm Lab, which provides test results within minutes per cow at dairy operations.

The goal: to empower real-time management decisions that increase productivity, prevent losses, improve animal welfare and protect the food supply.

Now, Parr Drach says, that same test can be used on humans to predict the severity of illness in COVID-19 patients.

“Our test can save lives and extend our limited medical resources by predicting early in the infection which patients are likely to become severely ill,” she said. “Other data show it could be used to screen and monitor patients. If we can make that kind of contribution, how could we not pivot?”

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center helped fund AAD’s research and development as an early startup. The support helped the company attract equity capital from North Carolina investors, including Burlington-based LabCorp and Intersouth Partners of Durham, and from investors outside North Carolina including Novartis Venture Funds, Cultivian Sandbox, Middleland Capital and the Kansas Bioscience Authority.​

Preparing application

AAD is currently collecting validation data to submit as part of its FDA application.

It recently conducted a study using donated human blood, which it says proved that the test works. It plans to collect more data at point-of-care settings in the coming days.

Parr Drach is appealing to clinics to run the test.

“If anyone would like to let us run the test at their clinic — drive-through testing facility, hospital, nursing home, any point-of-care setting – they could help us get this test on the market faster,” she said.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center