UArizona Partners with State to Provide COVID-19 Antibody Tests

The state investment will allow UArizona to test 250,000 of Arizona’s front-line workforce.

TUCSON, Ariz. – The University of Arizona today announced it will provide antibody testing for the state of Arizona. Gov. Doug Ducey announced earlier that the state will offer antibody tests for health care workers and first responders across the state. The state investment will allow UArizona to test 250,000 of Arizona's front-line workforce.

The antibody tests build upon the work of UArizona Health Sciences researchers Dr. Janko Nikolich-Žugich, whose lab is pictured here, and Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya. (Photo: Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences)"We are proud to partner with the state of Arizona to provide antibody testing to our front-line workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD.

"As one of the top research institutions in the country, the University of Arizona is ready and poised to provide this service to the state of Arizona and our entire Wildcat family," Dr. Robbins said.

Earlier this month, President Robbins announced his intent to provide antibody tests to all 45,000 UArizona students and 15,000 faculty and staff. The student and faculty tests will be funded through private donations.

With $3.5 million in funding from the state, the University of Arizona is moving forward with plans to start producing blood tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies for the Arizona’s front-line workforce.

UArizona President Robert C. Robbins speaks at a news conference on antibody testing with Gov. Doug Ducey. Click for video. The antibody tests build upon the work of UArizona Health Sciences researchers and BIO5 Institute members Janko Nikolich-Žugich, MD, professor and head of the Department of Immunobiology, and Deepta Bhattacharya, PhD, associate professor of immunobiology. The tests will help determine how many people have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and have successfully built an immunity against it. Experts say as many as 50% of people who have been exposed to COVID-19 have experienced few to no symptoms of the disease.

"Determining whether a significant percentage of individuals have COVID-19 antibodies is critical to returning to regular social interaction," said Michael D. Dake, MD, senior vice president for UArizona Health Sciences, who is overseeing production of the tests. "Through what we hope would eventually be a comprehensive testing program, the university and local health care facilities could begin working toward reestablishing fully operational learning and working environments."

"We compliment Governor Ducey's foresight to test 250,000 front-line people in the state," said Dr. Robbins. "As the state's land-grant university, we are excited to offer our unique health services to the state for this very important program."

Dr. Michael Dake

It typically takes a week for someone infected with COVID-19 to start producing antibodies. During this later phase of an infection, a properly functioning immune system deploys antibodies that bind to the virus like a key in a lock, marking it for death and persisting in the bloodstream to protect against future infection.

Tests for COVID-19 antibodies can determine who is no longer in immediate danger from the virus. The tests also could be important for determining the reach of the pandemic and for providing a pathway to developing therapeutics for COVID-19 patients, as well as vaccines to guard against infection.

More information on the college’s activities regarding the COVID-19 pandemic are at this link.

The UArizona Health Sciences COVID-19 Resources webpage can be found here.

For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.

A version of this story appeared originally on the UANews and UArizona Health Sciences Connect websites.

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NOTE: Photos available upon request.

About the University of Arizona College of Medicine –Tucson
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is shaping the future of medicine through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research and advancements in patient care in Arizona and beyond. Founded in 1967, the college boasts more than 50 years of innovation, ranking among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care. Through the university's partnership with Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the college is leading the way in academic medicine. For more information, visit medicine.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).