Five minutes. Abbot Pharma Labs is saying that’s how long it will take to diagnose COVID-19 with their recently announced rapid diagnostic kit. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already given their approval for the firm to move forward with administering the portable test equipment; Abbot started manufacturing 50,000 a day since April 1.
The kit was created in response to a growing demand for quick and reliable testing mechanisms in the US. Mounting cases in the hardest-hit states like New York, Washington, and California meant hundreds of patients were left in hospitals – straining the limited resources of the overtaxed healthcare systems serving them. The tests were initially given to only the highest-risk cases. Still, when the CDC’s standard diagnostic tools started to show problems, the FDA authorized the development and distribution of kits by leading pharma and commercial testing manufacturers.
“This is really going to provide a tremendous opportunity for front-line caregivers, those having to diagnose a lot of infections, to close the gap with our testing. A clinic will be able to turn that result around quickly, while the patient is waiting,” said John Frels, VP of research and development for Abbott.
Currently, Abbott's mini-testing tool is only available in the United States, where it is presently being administered 18,000 healthcare units across the country. The kit is also able to diagnose influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and bug-related infections that manifest in similar ways to the flu. The box test is less than 7 lbs and can be completed anywhere.
In light of recent decisions made by the Trump administration to seize medical supplies due to shortages experienced in the United States, nations like Germany and Canada have been scrambling to find supplies after their shipments were seized. Many are looking for answers within their borders as supply chains become less reliable.
Canadian-based Spartan Bioscience also developed a portable diagnostic test for tracking down COVID-19 culprits. While it isn’t as quick as its southern counterpart, CEO Paul Lem promises healthcare providers can have an answer in as soon as 30 minutes. The test is completed by inserting a cartridge containing a patient's swab into a machine about the size of a coffee cup. The device analyzes the DNA for evidence of the coronavirus and can be deployed anywhere from doctor's offices, to cruise ships, and border crossings.
Spartan's CEO states the firm has been spending "millions and millions of dollars" to build up its supply chain and manufacturing capacity to accommodate an incoming flood of orders. The biotech has inked deals with both federal and provincial governments and is securing more funding to meet the torrent of demand. Interest is global but Lam wants to keep Canada at the front of the line.
“We want to prioritize Canada first, so we’re talking with the provinces right now,” Lam said. “Every day there’s some other country around the world or some large corporation that approaches us and wants to get access to our supplies. But for now, we are holding them off so that we prioritize Canada.”