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Trump Administration Puts Funds Into Faster, Cheaper Virus Test

July 16, 2020, 5:19 PM

Chembio Diagnostic Systems is getting an infusion of $628,000 from the federal government to develop an antigen test for Covid-19 to more quickly and cheaply determine whether patients have the virus.

Antigen tests look for pieces of the proteins that make up SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, to determine if someone is currently infected. The test typically uses a nasal or throat swab.

Chembio received the contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. BARDA, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, helps develop countermeasures against emerging diseases.

The Food and Drug Administration has only authorized two companies’ antigen tests—Quidel Corp. and Becton, Dickinson and Co. Antigen tests are less costly and return results more quickly than the more common genetic diagnostic tests, but they are more difficult to develop.

Although U.S. health officials are now performing more than 600,000 tests per day, many states are still grappling with supply shortages and test result delays—crippling the country’s ability to respond to the pandemic.

BARDA also awarded contracts to Hememics Biotechnologies Inc., Nanomix Inc. and OraSure Technologies Inc. in April and Quidel in May to develop antigen tests.

The FDA revoked an emergency use authorization for Chembio’s antibody test June 16 due to performance concerns about the test’s accuracy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shira Stein in Washington at sstein@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

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