The federal government said Tuesday it was investing close to half a billion dollars in a cartridge-based on-the-spot coronavirus test that it said would help “dramatically” expand its supply of tests by next spring.
Cue Health’s quick polymerase chain reaction or PCR test takes about 20 minutes to find the genetic material of the coronavirus – the so-called gold standard of testing. Being able to deploy it for point-of-care use should speed up testing – something that has held up control of the spread of the virus across the US.
The Health and Human Services Department and Department of Defense said they were investing $481 million in Cue to help it produce more tests.
“This partnership with HHS and DOD will allow Cue to expand its industrial base and increase domestic production to 100,000 COVID-19 test kits per day by March 2021, and demonstrate this capacity through the delivery of six million COVID-19 tests and 30,000 instruments to the U.S. Government to support the domestic COVID-19 pandemic response,” HHS said in a statement.
“Cue’s tests provide results in about 20 minutes with the kind of accuracy provided by lab tests that can take several days, adding to our dramatically expanding supply of rapid tests that can support safe reopening,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar added.
Dr. Brett Giroir, who heads testing efforts for the federal government’s coronavirus task force, told governors in a call Tuesday the tests were used to help the National Basketball Association control the spread of coronavirus and continue play.
“This was the primary point of care test used in the NBA bubble,” Giroir said in a call, the recording of which was obtained by CNN. “If it was good enough for LeBron, we need to democratize it to the American people,” Giroir added.
“We will not have tens of thousands of these for a period of many weeks. We will have 8,000 — the first delivery in four weeks,” he added. “And we want to work selectively with a few states and a few programs to test these out in the wild, to understand how they will best complement the current ecosystem that has the antigen test up front and the big laboratory tests in the back.”
The Food and Drug Administration gave the test emergency use authorization in June.