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Omicron variant could spur COVID-19 testing market shake-up, says GlobalData

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The rapid global spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant is set to re-invigorate PCR testing, which is currently worth $23 billion, according to leading data and analytics company GlobalData.

While typical PCR and antigen tests simply detect the presence or absence of a single viral component, Thermo Fisher’s TaqPath PCR test is designed to detect multiple targets — allowing it to distinguish likely Omicron cases. GlobalData notes that TaqPath saw a 25-fold increase of testing volumes in US hospitals when the Delta variant began to dominate.

Chris Onderisin, Medical Devices Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Its not that antigen tests are less effective at detecting Omicron, but most cannot distinguish between the strains — and those that can are hard to come by. This ability is of increasing importance. Not only are there different public guidance for different strains, but governments worldwide are being very cautious about Omicron — for example, countries with high Omicron numbers are being added to the travel ban list. Therefore, there is a great need for tests that can tell the difference between the ‘original’ COVID-19 strain, Delta and Omicron like a PCR test can.”

One company set to see big gains is Thermo Fisher. Its TaqPath test targets multiple regions of the viral genome and has been singled out by the World Health Organization as the best positioned diagnostic for screening potential cases of Omicron.

Onderisin continues: “Thermo Fisher has a key role to play in initial surveillance. The need for differentiated testing provides a clear and immediate opportunity for Thermo Fisher to re-claim lost ground in the COVID-19 testing market. While studies on the transmissibility and virulence of Omicron will dictate its long-term impact, the recent endorsement by the WHO and commitments from reference laboratories in the US and India will help Thermo Fisher secure COVID-19 test revenues not seen since December of 2020.”

Roche Diagnostics has also been quick to publicize the development of three new tests developed by the recently acquired TIB Molbiol, which can differentiate between strains such as Omicron and Delta — though these are presently positioned for research use only.”

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