In Brief: Faculty Members Help Launch Competition to Develop Affordable, Accurate and Scalable COVID-19 Tests

a scientist in a lab

With the need for wide scale COVID-19 testing to allow societies reopen safely, a group from Weill Cornell Medicine and other academic medical centers and research organizations have announced the launch of a global competition for low-cost, high-quality and scalable COVID-19 tests, called the COVID-19 XPRIZE, in a letter published Aug. 20 in Nature Biotechnology. The authors also describe a new online tool designed to annotate and compare new tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), developed by a public benefit corporation called Resilience Health, of which corresponding author Dr. Christopher Mason is a cofounder and advisor. The tool seeks to address the "urgent need for a searchable interface of standardized information about SARS-CoV-2 testing,” the authors write. They note that documents submitted to the FDA for currently approved tests are inconsistent in what they report, with key attributes that could help evaluate the quality of tests missing or unclear. This makes it difficult to directly compare test performance “and even understand how a test will actually translate into clinical or surveillance settings.”

Finalists for the X-Prize competition will be selected from a multi-round process assessing factors including cost, speed, scalability, false positives and reproducibility. By September 15, over 650 entrants from dozens of countries had entered the competition. OpenCovidScreen, the 501c3 organization sponsoring the contest, will help scale winning tests in November with a $50M “COVID-19 Apollo Fund,” make them available in more locations and coordinate with government, industry and other non-profit efforts.

Corresponding author: Christopher Mason

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