Low-Cost School “Pool Testing” Will be a Critical Tool as Children Go Back to School
PRL Genome Sequencing Capability Will Allow Schools to Track Variants and Shape Community Response
Brooklyn, New York – April 14, 2021 – The Pandemic Response Lab (PRL) – the leading lab capable of simultaneous school COVID-19 surveillance “pool testing,” variant tracking, and individual testing – today announced that it is partnering with Concentric by Ginkgo, the public health and biosecurity effort at Ginkgo Bioworks, the organism company, to provide COVID-19 surveillance “pool testing” for schools around the country. Low-cost school pool testing will be critical as children get back to in-person learning. Under the partnership, Ginkgo Bioworks will provide end-to-end testing services at schools who will send samples to PRL, operated by Opentrons Labworks Inc., where PRL will conduct the back-end lab work, including pool testing for COVID-19 and genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus found in positive pool results.
The Biden administration recently announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will invest $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan to increase testing to help schools reopen, with $2.25 billion allocated to scale up testing in underserved populations.
“Fast, affordable pool testing and variant tracking is what American schools need to reopen equitably and efficiently,” said Jonathan Brennan-Badal, CEO of Opentrons Labworks Inc.. “By working with partners like Ginkgo Bioworks, we can expand our reach and bring these services to more students and educators across the country.”
“We’re thrilled to partner with Opentrons and the Pandemic Response Lab, whose testing hubs offer strategically vital capacity for pool testing,” said Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks. “America has the operationally excellent labs, the governmental support, and the know-how to ensure that every student can receive testing, every week.”
Pool testing is a cost-effective tool that allows schools to widely test students, faculty, and support staff, and quickly determine where COVID-19 may be present. PRL’s SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing can also tell a school if a dangerous COVID-19 variant is present, providing a critical piece of information in shaping the community’s response.
PRL recently announced that it has launched several national COVID-19 testing hubs to help children return to the classroom. The hubs are located in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, CA. Concentric by Ginkgo currently provides testing services to hundreds of schools across the country.
MORE ABOUT PANDEMIC RESPONSE LAB
At each COVID-19 testing hub, PRL is partnering with school testing coordinators and leading health diagnostic companies, including Ginkgo Bioworks, to collect and pool samples from schools. These samples are then sent to PRL for in-lab school surveillance pool testing and variant tracking services.
Using Opentrons’s advanced robotics technology, PRL provides fast and accurate COVID-19 testing at a low cost to government agencies, hospitals, businesses and schools. The PRL also conducts large-scale virus genome sequencing to track COVID-19 variants and identify potentially dangerous new mutations.
PRL’s testing is:
— Highly accurate: Up to 25% more sensitive than industry benchmark PCR tests.
— Fast: 99% of PCR results are provided in 24 hours or less, compared to the 48- to 72- hour industry average.
— Affordable: PRL offers its partners a range of volume-based testing solutions, including $25 per pool test of up to 25 students, or just $1 per child – costing up to 50% less than the national average.
— Proven technology: PRL has already processed more than 2.6 million tests for the people of New York since October 2020 and is now testing between 125,000 and 250,000 students and educators each month.
In partnership with the New York City government, Opentrons opened its first PRL in New York last fall and has been providing COVID-19 testing and variant detection for the city, area hospitals, and other clients ever since.
In February 2021, the New York PRL discovered the first case of B1.351, the South African variant of COVID-19, in a New York State resident. The lab has also been tracking the spread of the U.K. variant and other mutations, and delivering real-time alerts to health authorities.
PRL is conducting 30,000 to 50,000 PCR tests every day at its New York City lab, with capacity increasing to more than 500,000 tests per day as it opens more labs around the country.
In addition to launching its new testing hubs in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, Opentrons is exploring opening labs in other communities around the country.
Opentrons can open a PRL in 30-45 days in most parts of America and the world. The company specializes in manufacturing innovative robotics automation solutions for health care. Its products are used in more than 3,000 labs in more than 40 countries.
PHOTOS AND B-ROLL
Photos and b-roll video of the PRL New York City lab, including footage of the Opentrons robots conducting PCR tests, can be viewed and downloaded here.
Photo and b-roll opportunities at the PRL Washington, D.C. lab can be scheduled upon request.
Photo and b-roll opportunities at schools using Concentric by Ginkgo’s testing services can be scheduled upon request.
Media seeking interviews with PRL leadership and scientists, or interested in visiting either the New York or Washington, D.C. labs, should contact Steve Posner at [email protected] or 202-827-9688.
Schools and partners interested in learning more about PRL’s testing capabilities and availability should visit pandemicresponselab.com. To learn more about Concentric by Ginkgo or to get your school district involved in pooled testing, head over to concentricbyginkgo.com.