The Biden government is going into a deal with an Australian company named Ellume. The company works with digital diagnostics and can provide rapid tests for the coronavirus. These tests will be similar to the at-home pregnancy kits women use. Moreover, one can purchase it without a prescription. The medically advanced process allows a person to take a test and get results within 15 minutes in an app by Ellume.
Rapid tests for coronavirus approved by FDA
FDA gave an emergency authorization to Australian company Ellume to supply rapid test kits. The deal was done in December and showed a 96% accuracy level like clinical studies in the US. The trials done included toddlers over 2 years old and adults of several age groups.
Ellume revealed during a press release about its contract with the US Defense Department. The deal with $231.8 million will help the company fund its first manufacturing plant in America. Once the plant is set up, the company will produce over 500,000 test kits every day.
How can you use the test?
The test will use a short nasal swab and collect samples. Next, the sample will be placed in the digital analyzer linked with a mobile app. The cost per test will be approximately $30.
The deal between the US and Ellume
By October 2020, Ellume got a $30 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics to fund their manufacturing and clinical testing possibilities.
According to the new contract, Ellume will provide 8.5 million tests to the US Federal Government. The report was confirmed by Andy Slavitt, the senior adviser at the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
A spokesperson for Ellume named Suzanne Sterns reported that they would deliver 100,000 test kits every month from their Australian manufacturing unit until they build the US unit.
With total capacity, the US unit will produce at least 19 million test kits every month. Also, the 8.5 million test kits are a portion of their overall manufacturing facilities.
Sterns confirmed that the first lot of tests to DOD and HHS would happen in February. By the end of this month, US Government will have 100,000 test kits with them. Currently, the tests will not be commercially available in the country or anywhere else. But the company will soon make announcements about the rollout, retail plans, and so on.
Biden government is trying to provide rapid tests.
The new government is trying its best to promote rapid tests across the US. It is the most-affected country in the world due to the coronavirus, and the new variant seems to threaten and make the situation worse. There is an urgent need to make rapid tests readily available to contain the virus.
The daily testing rate of the coronavirus stands as 550 people per 100,000 people. The average has been given by The Johns Hopkins University after recording the increase in the number of tests throughout a week. The number is better than smaller countries but much behind the UK, which is also hard hit due to the pandemic. The average testing in the UK is 986 per 100,000 people.
Cost of the tests are high
As the cost of the rapid tests from Ellume will be around $30 and people will need a smartphone to get the report, it is unlikely that the tests will be a game-changer. It is a test that families can routinely check before they plan to leave their house and prevents silent infection spread.
According to Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist from Harvard said that the contract with Ellume is the right step. It will ensure having fast tools that slow down the spread. However, he says that the public needs tests that are quickly accessible and abundant. Tools that one can use at any time and get actionable results with $5 or less for each test. If a test does not meet such criteria, it will not be good enough to fight the pandemic.
While discussing the rapid tests, Slavitt said that he hopes the tests’ cost will be lower. He also said that things that are not inexpensive and accessible would not do good to them.
Slavitt also said that the production capacity has to be high to lower the cost per test, referring to the chicken-egg problem. The deal with Ellume might help solve this. Slavitt also said that the approach is to lower costs and bring in more innovations.
Finally, Slavitt said that the local, state, and federal governments need to make COVID-19 tests affordable. Moreover, there will not be life-changing advancements until both vaccines and tests are ubiquitous.