The precision diagnostics company BillionToOne has developed a novel Covid-19 test that has the capacity to perform more than one million tests per day in the US alone. 

According to BillionToOne, test reagents will be available in the US in two weeks, pending the manufacture of the kits and FDA approval.

The BillionToOne Covid-19 test does not use the same instruments and chemicals as the existing Covid-19 tests but instead looks at the virus's genome, which makes the tests extremely sensitive and specific. 

Additionally, the test is easily adoptable at any labs with sanger sequencers, with minimal training.

Sanger sequencing is used to study a small subset of genes linked to a defined phenotype. The phenotype is used in genetics for the composite observable characteristics or traits of an organism.

Oguzhan Atay, chief executive of BillionToOne, said: "We've all seen the impact this pandemic has had on every aspect of our daily lives. From the loss of lives and the damage to the economy to the strain on the healthcare system, this coronavirus has delivered a crippling blow to the country. We're honoured to be on the front line of this fight against the pandemic, and we're certain that this unique technology will help save lives and stop the spread of the virus."

He added: "I'm extremely grateful for the hard work and the dedication of the BillionToOne team in getting this vital resource developed so quickly. Our mission here at BillionToOne is to remove the fear of the unknown by making powerful molecular diagnostics available to all. We believe our Covid-19 test can contribute greatly in removing the unknowns from the Covid-19 crisis response." 

The news from BillionToOne in the US comes as the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the government is aiming to conduct 100,000 Covid-19 tests daily by the end of April. Currently, the UK only has the capacity to conduct around 10,000 tests a day.

However, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “The government must be realistic about what’s possible and not overpromise. Delivering over the coming weeks will be crucial to how both front line staff and the wider public view the government’s ability to manage the crisis.”

As well as facing pressure from the union, the government is also under pressure from the opposition among others, to explain how it will meet its target of Covid-19 testing by the end of April.

Labour's new leader, Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Ministers have consistently failed to explain why we are miles behind where we need to be on testing for coronavirus. We need answers and we need solutions – and we need them now.”

Date published: April 7, 2020

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