KSL Diagnostics is a national reference laboratory with proprietary diagnostics and therapeutics impacting oncology, immunology and genomics. As the biomedical company transitioned its focus to tackle COVID-19 diagnostics head on, the University at Buffalo provided ongoing support to this pre-pandemic partner.
CHALLENGE & OPPORTUNITY
In early 2020, a highly contagious coronavirus spread rapidly across the world. As the outbreak turned into a global pandemic, unknowns about the lethal nature of the virus forced societal shutdown. Thus arose an urgent need for diagnostic tools to increase COVID-19 testing capacity, keep people healthy and safely open the world back up.
Later, as COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out, a portion of the U.S. population built up antibodies—a promising solution for returning to pre-COVID norms. However, since antibody levels vary over time and COVID-19 affects individuals differently, many were unsure about their level of risk for infection and potential complications upon infection. In addition, the continual emergence of new variants posed unknown threats that added to the uncertainty.
SOLUTION & OUTCOME
KSL’s team traveled to China to deploy diagnostics during the COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020. The company’s COVID-19 panel, including antigen, antibody and RT-PCR tests, was commercially introduced in March 2020 to increase availability of testing and speed up diagnosis of active infections. KSL also opened physical testing sites across Western New York. KSL has seen significant job growth in Erie County since 2018.
In April 2022, KSL launched a first-of-its-kind antibody test that estimates an individual's level of protection from COVID-19. From a blood draw or finger prick sample, the COVID-19 Immune Index™ accurately measures the levels of three types of antibodies against COVID-19. The test is correlated with measures of virus neutralization, providing a way to estimate infection risk if exposed to the virus. The aim is to provide doctors and patients the ability to make informed decisions, as well as aid long-term care facilities in monitoring immunity levels.
KSL Diagnostics partnered with UB in early 2019 to expedite expansion of its genomics laboratory. The pre-existing partnership facilitated swift action when the pandemic struck, as the Business & Entrepreneur Partnerships (BEP) team was able to rapidly deploy capital equipment funding support for KSL to quickly access sophisticated testing equipment and hire. As a result, KSL became the primary COVID-19 testing provider in Western New York.
The Center for Advanced Technology in Big Data and Health Sciences (UB CAT) program also provided matching funds for R&D projects and paired the company with UB expert and BSL3 laboratory director, Amy Jacobs, PhD. The testing data produced was used by KSL Diagnostics in the development of the Immune Index™ assay, for which the company received FDA Emergency Use Authorization in 2022.