NIBSC develops new reference materials to support the pandemic response

The SARS-CoV-2 virus; Courtesy of NIBSC and CDC

The NIBSC continues to play its role in global efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic by developing new reference materials and reagents

As an influential member of EURAMET’s European Metrology Network for Traceability in Laboratory Medicine (EMN TraceLabMed), the UK’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) has been consistently providing critical support to the global scientific community during our current public health crisis.

In particular, the institute has focused its efforts on accelerating the development of key reference materials and research reagents. Recently, international standards for anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin and SARS-CoV-2 RNA were developed at the NIBSC, and were then evaluated in international collaborative studies. These higher order calibrant materials were formally established by the World Health Organisation in December 2020, and are now available to researchers, manufacturers, and regulators worldwide for the purpose of harmonising serological and molecular assays.

Additionally, the NIBSC has produced CE-marked external run controls – where the CE marking indicates conformity with health, safety and environmental protection standards for products sold within Europe. It will be possible to use the new controls to monitor the day-to-day performance of serological and molecular diagnostic tests for the coronavirus.

The institute has further supported diagnostic laboratories by producing a CE-marked multiplex control reagent that can discriminate between SARS-CoV-2 and other common winter respiratory viruses - such as influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus. The use of this reagent will help to prevent hospital-acquired infections and ensure that patients are able to receive the most appropriate treatment. The NIBSC has also distributed a panel of materials to verify the performance of diagnostic laboratories using the novel LAMP assay for the rapid and sensitive detection of SARS-CoV-2.

Finally, the NIBSC Centre for AIDS reagents has expanded its remit beyond HIV/AIDS research and now also offers a growing collection of viruses, plasmids, cell line, recombinant proteins and antibodies to fast-track research based around COVID-19.

Dr Chris Burns, Head of Biotherapeutics Division at the NIBSC comments:

“The NIBSC is proud to be supporting the EURAMET response to the coronavirus pandemic through its Metrology Network for Traceability in Laboratory Medicine. Over the last year, our experts have worked tirelessly to develop a range of common reference materials to meet the needs of regulators, manufacturers and the wider scientific community.”

The availability of these materials has played a crucial role in facilitating the speedy development of diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19, and will continue to do so going forward in our fight against the pandemic.

View the full portfolio of COVID-19-related materials available from the NIBSC >>

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