The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced an initiative worth $129.3 million to instantly expand rapid test manufacturing and expand its network of high-throughput labs.
The NIH says this will significantly increase the number and types of tests in the millions each week.
The contract is delivered to nine companies as part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program. The first awards ceremony came in July.
This money will help expand the network this month if the five existing high-throughput labs are fast. The goal is to speed up the processing of test results in areas with backups. One contract was delivered to Nashville-based PathGroup, which has laboratories concentrated in the southeast and midwest. The company processes around 10,000 coronavirus tests per day, but through funding and partnerships with ThermoFisher and Illumina, it will add additional test equipment and automation to allow the lab to perform 80,000 tests per day through December.
This money will also fund new technologies to make the Covid-19 test easier to use.
A Virginia-based company called MicroGEM International has created a portable laboratory that tests saliva samples. You can get test results in 15 minutes. This technique can also be used to detect other pathogens in samples such as influenza.
Funds go to Nebraska-based MatMaCorp, which has created a portable mini-lab for use in clinics and hospitals in rural and other medically vulnerable communities.
Maryland-based Maxim Biomedical has signed a contract for a Covid-19 test with disposable test strips similar to home pregnancy tests that do not require special equipment to read the results.
Another company moved to Virginia-based Ceres Nanoscience Inc. to create a sample preparation method that increases the sensitivity of other companies’ testing and reduces the processing time required to find new coronaviruses.
“Most of these tests incorporate innovations that have moved from lab to point of care at an unprecedented pace,” said Bruce Tromberg, Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Biotechnology and Director of RADx Tech, in a statement.
Some context: Tuesday, US Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary of Health Adm. Brett Giroir said the turnaround time of the main referral laboratory has decreased over the past 7 days.
The lab handles about half of the country’s Covid-19 tests, but people in some regions still struggle to find the test or wait long for the results.