July 31, 2020 / 3:03 PM / 6 days ago

NIH investing $248.7 million in seven companies to scale up COVID-19 testing

(Reuters) - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) said on Friday it is investing $248.7 million in seven diagnostic companies with new testing technologies to increase their testing capacities and make millions of rapid COVID-19 tests per week available by fall.

The funding is part of NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative which was launched in April.

The U.S. health agency said three of the selected companies, Talis Biomedical, Quidel Corp and Mesa Biotech, offer point-of-care tests, while the remaining four — Ginkgo Bioworks, Helix OpCo LLC, Fluidigm Corp and Mammoth Biosciences Inc — offer lab-based tests.

Adequate diagnostic testing and faster processing are crucial in the United States, which leads the world in COVID-19 deaths. The country has reported nearly 152,384 deaths so far and at least 4.5 million coronavirus cases, according to a Reuters tally.

U.S. labs now run about 800,000 diagnostic tests daily, according to the COVID Tracking Project. But the United States needs 6 million to 10 million tests per day, by various estimates.

The range of new lab-based and point-of-care tests that the seven companies offer could significantly increase the number, type and availability of tests by millions per week as early as September 2020, the agency said.

Reporting By Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel

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