Massachusetts Firm to Produce Millions of Test Kits That Can Diagnose COVID-19 in Four Hours

A Massachusetts-based firm said it will be producing high-speed tests that can diagnose COVID-19 in as many as five million people a week.

Thermo Fisher Scientific said on Friday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency authorization for its test, which can provide results within four hours of a sample arriving at a lab.

"The authorization of our diagnostic test for COVID-19 will help to protect patients and enable medical staff to respond swiftly to treat those who are ill and prevent the spread of infection," Marc N. Casper, the CEO of Thermo Fisher Scientific, said in a statement.

Vice President @Mike_Pence provides the latest on testing capacity—with more details to come tomorrow evening at 5:00 p.m. ET.

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 14, 2020

Thermo Fisher Scientific spokesman Ron O'Brien told Newsweek that the company is planning to make enough kits to test up to five million people a week.

The company, which makes lab equipment, is selling two types of test kits. One has the capacity to diagnose up to 100 people and another that can diagnose as many as 1,000 people, he said.

"We plan to produce up to 5 million reactions per week. Each reaction has the potential to test one patient. The test will be available as part of a kit. Each kit can produce either 100 or 1000 reactions depending on the specific kit," he said.

He told The Boston Globe that hospitals and laboratories can order the test kits online immediately. They "should be able to start running the tests within a week," he added.

Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration was "very pleased that Thermo Fisher was just approved last night by the FDA in record time to also be providing what's called a high throughput test that will actually increase the capacity of this public and private partnership."

Pence added that further details about the testing capacity will be revealed by officials at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement on Friday, "This action today shows our agency's dedication to working around the clock to review and authorize diagnostics during this public health emergency. We have been engaging with test developers and encouraging them to come to the FDA and work with us."

Hahn added that the FDA has been in touch with 80 test developers that want to make their kits available through the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) process since the beginning of the new coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday, Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche announced that it had also received emergency authorization for a test kit from the FDA. "Roche is committed to delivering as many tests as possible and is going to the limits of our production capacity," the company said in a news release.

Both Thermo Fisher Scientific and Roche were mentioned by President Donald Trump during a news conference on Friday during which he declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency.

The shortage of tests for COVID-19 available in the U.S. has attracted widespread criticism from experts and the public. The country has the capacity to perform around 26,000 tests a day as of Saturday morning, according to the American Enterprise Institute.

This article has been updated to include a comment from a spokesman for Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Coronavirus test
Health workers test a woman for coronavirus at a drive-thru facility at the Life Care Center on March 14, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington. John Moore/Getty Images

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of COVID-19

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing;
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  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities, follow guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks.
  • Clean hands after disposing of mask, do not reuse single-use masks.