UB partner KSL Biomedical is advancing COVID-19 diagnostics

The Western New York-based biotech firm is looking to raise funds and accelerate deployment of these vital innovations

Release Date: April 7, 2020

“Experience has shown us that we need good information — accurate, high capacity tests — to manage the COVID-19 outbreak and help people safely return to the workforce. ”
Kevin Lawson, CEO
KSL Biomedical

BUFFALO, N.Y. — University at Buffalo partner company KSL Biomedical has developed diagnostic tests and is moving forward with clinical validation of prognostic tools that could improve patient care during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The company receives support from UB’s Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics (BIG), part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s economic development effort to advance the Buffalo Niagara region as a center for bioinformatics and life sciences research.

KSL has been engaged with the COVID-19 pandemic for months, with its senior management team traveling to China in January 2020 to work on projects there.

“Experience has shown us that we need good information — accurate, high capacity tests — to manage the COVID-19 outbreak and help people safely return to the workforce. BIG has provided essential resources, positioning KSL to deliver practical solutions in New York State,” says KSL Biomedical CEO Kevin Lawson. “With the right partners, we can take these technologies further and help stem the outbreak wherever it spreads.”

The company first deployed diagnostic technologies in the outbreak in China, and is seeking funding for deployment and scale-up in the U.S. as soon as possible, Lawson says.

KSL Biomedical is conducting regulatory studies in its clinical laboratories to support launch of products and services in the United States and international markets. This includes:

  • Testing for active COVID-19 infections. BIG funding was used to purchase sophisticated testing equipment that is facilitating this work. The company has optimized its testing system to run up to 1,300 specimens a day, Lawson says. Once ready, such technology would help to increase availability of tests and contribute to faster diagnosis of patients with active COVID-19 infections.

  • Antibody tests to identify people with immune response against COVID-19. These laboratory methods can detect antibodies when the COVID-19 virus is present and long after infection is resolved, says KSL Chief Scientific Officer Long Shen, PhD. Antibody tests are particularly useful because people who have had coronavirus but are no longer sick may be able to return to work or safely leave their homes. Widespread antibody testing could also help scientists understand what percentage of the population has already been infected. Additional instrumentation funded by BIG has the capacity to run more than 400 tests per hour at the KSL Diagnostics clinical lab in Western New York, Lawson says.

  • Tests to aid health care workers in assessing COVID-19 patients at high risk of progressing to serious respiratory complications. Work on prognostic biomarkers is proceeding with validation in clinical populations, Lawson says. The company hopes these tests will help doctors make better predictions about which patients are likely to require intensive care and access to a ventilator, and which patients can recover safely at home.

“These tools will increase COVID-19 testing capacity, afford better management of patients, and yield critical data to flatten the curve and aid in the recovery from the pandemic,” Shen says.

The company pitched the technologies to potential investors on April 3 in Innovate to Ventilate, an event hosted by the Business Incubator Association of New York State.

KSL Biomedical has strong ties to UB. In addition to partnering with BIG, the company’s chief medical officer is Lakshmanan Suresh, DDS, PhD, clinical professor in the Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences in UB’s School of Dental Medicine.

Funding from BIG enables UB to leverage research expertise and equipment to collaborate with industry partners in Erie County to bring new or expanded medical products to the market and support job growth in Erie County.

KSL is a Western New York-based company advancing translational medicine and improving the delivery of personalized medicine through the development of novel genomic- and proteomic-based diagnostics for cancers and immunological diseases. The company has a robust pipeline of proprietary products and services targeting the United States and the rest of the world.

Media Contact Information

Charlotte Hsu is a former staff writer in University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, email ub-news@buffalo.edu or visit our list of current university media contacts.