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Korean testing kit makers confident they can detect omicron

People fill out paperwork before getting tested for COVID-19 at a testing center set up in front of the city hall in Gwangju on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
People fill out paperwork before getting tested for COVID-19 at a testing center set up in front of the city hall in Gwangju on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Amid worries over the omicron variant of COVID-19, Korean testing kit makers showed confidence in their equipment’s ability to detect the new virus variant, pushing up their stock prices again.

GreenCross Medical Science said Friday that the effectiveness of its COVID-19 testing kit has been confirmed for the new omicron variant as well.

In order to assess the validity of the result from its testing equipment, GCMS conducted the ‘in-silico’ experiment, which refers to a type of analysis performed through computer simulation.

The company said the analysis confirmed that the gene sequence of the omicron variant did not affect the target area of its testing kit, meaning that it can pick up whether the person is infected regardless of the variant.

After the announcement was made on Friday, the company’s stock price began to surge. The stock closed at 7,720 won ($6.53), up 9.5 percent from the closing price the previous day.

A day earlier, Boditech Med also said that the company completed the evaluation of its COVID-19 testing kit product’s effectiveness on the omicron variant.

The company explained that most of virus variants are taking place in the spike protein, which is located on the outside of the virus. But as Boditech Med’s testing kits mostly target the nucleocapsid protein that is placed on the inside of the virus surface, their equipment to confirm the COVID-19 infection is not hindered by the new variant, it added.

“Outside of the testing kits already being sold, we are in the process of developing a testing kit that can determine the infection of the omicron variant with one test,” a Boditech Med official said.

Seegene’s virus diagnostic reagent can detect the omicron variant, the company said Wednesday.

The diagnostic reagent targets four COVID-19 virus genes and five variant genes, the company explained, and of the genes that the omicron variant contains, three kinds can be spotted by Seegene’s product. If those three variant genes are found, the case can be presumed to be an omicron variant infection, it added.

“Considering the speed of the spread and the danger of the virus, this omicron variant has a chance to take away our everyday life again. Because of this, proactively diagnosing the variant in the early stages of the spread is more important now,” said Chun Jong-yoon, CEO of Seegene, in a press release.

“Our (diagnostic reagent) will help each country’s government quickly sort out people who are possibly infected with the omicron variant and take control.”

The omicron variant is the fifth virus designated as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, following the alpha, beta, gamma and delta variants. According to the WHO, the new virus variant was reported in 23 countries across the world as of Wednesday.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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