Genedrive (LSE:GDR) shares enjoyed their surge earlier this year on the back of hopes that its remote testing technology could provide the key to tracking coronavirus cases.
Some of the initial enthusiasm has gone out of the shares, but the core value behind Genedrive’s technology is still there.
The Genedrive share price had been trading at around 9p/share in March but subsequently soared to peak at £2.20 in early May. The price has come off somewhat since then and found a new level at 86p. This is still considerably higher than the price it started the year at.
The market is awaiting further developments in the uptake of Genedrive technology in the battle against COVID.
Rapid detection of COVID pathogens is the Holy Grail
In summary the initial enthusiasm surrounded the applicability of Genedrive’s existing device-based technology to detect pathogens quickly. It offered the possibility that test samples could be analysed without the delays involved in referencing them back to a lab. Many governments and industries, not to mention health services, are desperate for the tools to provide a reliable on site test for the virus as individuals enter an area.
Genedrive held out the possibility of this touch of a button analysis of samples early on, but there are practical barriers, and this is why the price has come off somewhat. The market is impatient for results, but as investors are finding during this pandemic, the magic bullet is not necessarily easy to find.
Genedrive is taking steps to rectify this with the announcement that it is going to be working with Beckman Coulter Life Sciences to combine the Genedrive 96 SARS Cov 2 testing kit with the Biomek i7 automated work station. This would allow the analysis of saliva samples using the Beckman Coulter RNAdvance viral extraction chemistry.
What does this mean in practice? If working, one Biomek devices could analyse 1000 samples in an eight hour day, which would be more than enough for many work spaces, cinemas, schools or libraries.
Right now Genedrive says that its processes are compatible with those offered by Beckman Coulter. Further work is ongoing to validate clinical saliva samples.
“The integration of Beckman Coulter Life Sciences’ and Genedrive’s technologies produces a formidable workhorse solution for specialised laboratories looking to establish new or next level laboratory automation with labour cost reduction,” said Beckman Coulter’s Greg Milosevich. “Our ability to fully integrate the RNA extraction process on the Biomek while simultaneously preparing the plates for analysis is a critical step forward in advancing COVID testing workflows.”
As we mentioned in our previous note on Genedrive back in May, the key to all this is the on-site automation. Having to refer back to a lab makes the whole process impractical. Samples need to be accurately evaluated at the touch of a button.
Investors are waiting to see which way the trials jump. We anticipate another three weeks before we hear anything concrete. Ongoing validation testing is happening in the US, so we anticipate first ‘live’ use of the enabled Biomek device for COVID in the States in September.
Mass vaccination still months away
What remains to be said is that we are still a long way off mass vaccination. Until that happens, the ability to carry out rapid on-site testing is going to be gold dust for both firms involved in this project. We think most people won’t see a vaccine until at least March or April next year.
Companies and government agencies are desperate to have a tool the can screen people effectively, and the ability to arm Biomek devices for using on coronavirus will ensure they sell out almost immediately.