Abbott's coronavirus test includes work by BGSU alumna
Tao Xin '94 named Abbott Researcher of the Year for creating antibodies used in coronavirus rapid test
By Julie Carle
A Bowling Green State University alumna was named the Outstanding Researcher of the Year by a global health care company for her role in the successful launch of a COVID-19 rapid antigen test.
Tao Xin, a 1994 Master of Science in biological sciences graduate, led the Abbott team in Carlsbad, California, that developed the antibodies used in the company’s BinaxNOWTM COVID-19 test — the test BGSU is using for for its COVID-19 testing. The rapid test identifies antigens or proteins of the virus, that can be detected when a person is infected with the COVID-19 virus. The BinaxNOW Self Test was recently approved for over-the counter use by both symptomatic and asymptomatic people.
“My team was the major contributor in some of the materials that were used in the final product,” she said.
That was no small task. In less than four months, Xin's team developed an important component of the antigen test, which provides results in 15 minutes or less and requires no specialized instrumentation.
She and her five-member team “worked weekends and long days to get the project moving,” Xin said. They then had to produce massive quantities to be shipped to Maine, where many of the test kits are produced.
“The production system we use makes it easy to do mass production,” Xin said, even as the company looks at ramping production to as many a 50 million tests per month.
“I was amazed at how much we had to make, but I was so proud we were able to supply the quantities they needed to help battle the pandemic.”
With Abbott’s BinaxNow’s fast, reliable, affordable and portable test earning multiple awards, including Popular Science’s Best of 2020 and Chicago’s Best Innovations, Xin’s contribution made her a worthy candidate for the company’s Outstanding Researcher of the Year award.
“I was really honored, really excited when I learned about the award,” Xin said. “I was totally surprised and shocked; that was not something I was expecting.”
The award, named for Dr. Donalee Tabern, a career-long Abbott scientist and National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee, also had an unexpected connection for her. She discovered Tabern was born and raised in Bowling Green, Ohio, the town that welcomed her when she came to BGSU from China as a graduate student in immunology.
“I have such fond memories of my time in Bowling Green,” Xin said. “BGSU accepted me and gave me a scholarship to attend.”
She gained valuable experience working on her master’s thesis with now-retired Dr. Roudabeh (Roudi) Jamasbi, who held joint faculty appointments in the College of Health and Human Services and the College of Arts and Sciences. Xin was one of Jamasbi’s graduate students who worked developing antibodies for esophageal cancer.
“My master’s work set me up for my future career working with antibodies,” Xin said. She also met her future husband, David Wei Huang, at BGSU. He graduated with a Master of Education degree in sport administration from the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (now the School of Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies). He worked as a senior economic consultant for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and with the 2012 London and 2022 Beijing Olympics as well.
“BGSU changed my life,” Xin said, which is why she picked the BGSU biology department to receive a donation from the Abbott Fund in recognition of Xin’s award. “I can never thank BGSU too much.”