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The 15 minute immunity test taking the world one step closer to international travel

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9 June 2021

A healthtech venture developed by University of Auckland staff is helping people living in a post-Covid world travel safely within communities and around the globe. Orbis Diagnostics, founded by Faculty of Science professors David Williams and Cather Simpson, is on a mission to re-enable movement during a pandemic by making complex medical testing accessible wherever and whenever it is needed. 

Orbis has developed an accurate, cost effective quantitative immunity test for Covid-19 capable of verifying a person’s health status and assess whether vaccines have been effective in as little as 15 minutes. They can process up to 15 samples simultaneously and provide laboratory grade results at any point of need, such as airports and cruise ship terminals, supporting the safe resumption of international travel.

David, a University of Auckland alumnus and current Professor of Chemical Science, says “The idea is simple in principle though the devil is in the detail. If you are vaccinated and your immunity is high then you can be safely let through the border without going into quarantine. Hence, quantitative immunity testing implemented at borders can be a vital tool in opening up travel.”

Orbis’ flagship product, The Orbis Arca, is an automated, portable lab specifically designed for use in high-volume, non-laboratory environments. Talking to end users frequently throughout the development process played a crucial role in refining the design and ensuring that the platform meets users’ unique needs. David says, “User requirements are absolutely key and it’s really important to get these right. You can’t do this without engaging intensely with end users and talking to them all the time as the idea develops.”

While Orbis is currently focused on quantitative immunity testing and mobilising a world in lockdown, David sees potential in other applications for their technology. He says, “It’s a very powerful general method for enabling laboratory instrument-type accuracy of complex measurements of biochemical markers away from the central lab – in local clinics for example. Results are received faster (within 15 minutes) and diagnosis can be informed without a wait. It’s also easier to get a blood sample – a finger prick as opposed to a venous draw.”

Prior to founding Orbis, David and Cather participated in Velocity, the University of Auckland’s entrepreneurship development programme run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They now encourage their students to also make the most of Velocity and develop entrepreneurial mindsets that, in today’s world of work, are valuable regardless of what they go on to do.

“Inspiring and enthusing young people is what we are about. Getting young people interested in the thought that they can start companies and create a future for themselves is a great thing to do. Even if they don’t do this, their entrepreneurial energy, once ignited, will stay with them. This is something that society needs, and also leads to satisfying careers,” says David.

Behind Orbis is a world-leading team passionate about bringing Orbis’ technology to the world stage. They are on track for an operational trial due to begin in September, followed by regulatory submissions and a product launch. David says, “The pace of development since early last year has been spectacular. The technical quality is really, really good, and the enthusiasm and drive of CTO Dr Matheus Vargas and his team are just inspiring. The team is growing fast as we bring in talent and expertise across a whole range of necessary disciplines. We’ve been like a wooden cart, towed by a fired-up dragon. We’ve kept the wheels on and now are going gang-busters. It’s just an all-round buzz!”

Velocity Team 2020
Velocity Team 2020

social media

9 June 2021

A healthtech venture developed by University of Auckland staff is helping people living in a post-Covid world travel safely within communities and around the globe. Orbis Diagnostics, founded by Faculty of Science professors David Williams and Cather Simpson, is on a mission to re-enable movement during a pandemic by making complex medical testing accessible wherever and whenever it is needed. 

Orbis has developed an accurate, cost effective quantitative immunity test for Covid-19 capable of verifying a person’s health status and assess whether vaccines have been effective in as little as 15 minutes. They can process up to 15 samples simultaneously and provide laboratory grade results at any point of need, such as airports and cruise ship terminals, supporting the safe resumption of international travel.

David, a University of Auckland alumnus and current Professor of Chemical Science, says “The idea is simple in principle though the devil is in the detail. If you are vaccinated and your immunity is high then you can be safely let through the border without going into quarantine. Hence, quantitative immunity testing implemented at borders can be a vital tool in opening up travel.”

Orbis’ flagship product, The Orbis Arca, is an automated, portable lab specifically designed for use in high-volume, non-laboratory environments. Talking to end users frequently throughout the development process played a crucial role in refining the design and ensuring that the platform meets users’ unique needs. David says, “User requirements are absolutely key and it’s really important to get these right. You can’t do this without engaging intensely with end users and talking to them all the time as the idea develops.”

While Orbis is currently focused on quantitative immunity testing and mobilising a world in lockdown, David sees potential in other applications for their technology. He says, “It’s a very powerful general method for enabling laboratory instrument-type accuracy of complex measurements of biochemical markers away from the central lab – in local clinics for example. Results are received faster (within 15 minutes) and diagnosis can be informed without a wait. It’s also easier to get a blood sample – a finger prick as opposed to a venous draw.”

Prior to founding Orbis, David and Cather participated in Velocity, the University of Auckland’s entrepreneurship development programme run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They now encourage their students to also make the most of Velocity and develop entrepreneurial mindsets that, in today’s world of work, are valuable regardless of what they go on to do.

“Inspiring and enthusing young people is what we are about. Getting young people interested in the thought that they can start companies and create a future for themselves is a great thing to do. Even if they don’t do this, their entrepreneurial energy, once ignited, will stay with them. This is something that society needs, and also leads to satisfying careers,” says David.

Behind Orbis is a world-leading team passionate about bringing Orbis’ technology to the world stage. They are on track for an operational trial due to begin in September, followed by regulatory submissions and a product launch. David says, “The pace of development since early last year has been spectacular. The technical quality is really, really good, and the enthusiasm and drive of CTO Dr Matheus Vargas and his team are just inspiring. The team is growing fast as we bring in talent and expertise across a whole range of necessary disciplines. We’ve been like a wooden cart, towed by a fired-up dragon. We’ve kept the wheels on and now are going gang-busters. It’s just an all-round buzz!”


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