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Race to Create a Rapid Test for COVID-19 Offers Hope that the Virus Can be Tamed

The work to develop a rapid COVID-19 test is one of the most important challenges we face in the world today. Over 160 companies worldwide are in pursuit.

Society is under extreme pressure from this pandemic. Accurate testing is the cornerstone of a return to some level of normalcy and economic recovery.

The Virus Project commissioned a comprehensive report on COVID-19 testing that profiles the overall market and more than 160 companies worldwide seeking regulatory approval.  The market for tests could reach $50 billion annually. Of particular interest is a rapid, inexpensive daily test to identify the contagious. 

Research has indicated that the viral load (contagiousness) can accelerate 100-fold in one day and in the days preceding symptoms. It is in this 5- to 10-day period when contagiousness is highest, easy to spot by even a low-sensitivity antigen test if given daily. 

A rapid accurate test to detect who is contagious would change everything.  Schools and businesses could reopen. Industries that have been decimated, such as travel and hospitality, could rebound.

But our regulatory regime makes this very difficult. Stringent regulatory requirements by the FDA are slowing the advance of rapid and inexpensive antigen tests. 

Stringent regulatory requirements by the FDA are slowing the advance of rapid and inexpensive antigen tests. 

An organization for advancing the rapid-test agenda, Rapidtests.org, has been working support this cause. Their key challenge is getting the U.S. Government to reduce the requirements for public health testing and contagion control, because the FDA is operating with a medical diagnostic mindset instead of a public health mindset.  This may require administrative intervention if progress is to be made. 

The NIH has developed a “Sharktank” approach, with a group of companies coming through. With hopes that a successful one will surface by this fall, seven companies were selected and are receiving nearly $240 million in funding to scale. This was announced in late August, 2020. 

The belief is that if corporate, strategic, and financial investors, or others with the right insights can more quickly connect for partnerships or development efforts, this challenge could be handled.

The economic toll of COVID grows higher with each passing day. The success of testing can make a difference.  This is a critically important effort. Learn more about how you can support this effort at www.rapidtests.org. 

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