Community Labs, the COVID-19 rapid-testing laboratory working in partnership with BioBridge Global, soon will be able to boost testing from 15,000 to 50,000 samples a day.
The nonprofit laboratory made the announcement on Friday, Sept. 17, its one-year anniversary. Community Labs, which now has processed more than 1 million COVID-19 tests, is focused on helping schools safely return students to the classroom, allowing parents to return to work and communities to recover.
“BioBridge Global is thrilled to have played a role in bringing this groundbreaking service to our community,” said Martin Landon, Chief Executive Officer of BioBridge Global.
The increase in daily capacity is the result of a testing method called pooling used in QualTex Laboratories, a subsidiary of BioBridge Global, Landon said. The additional testing capacity comes just a year after the entire testing process was set up in the span of two months.
“The speed at which our team was able to develop a functioning laboratory was remarkable,” said Community Labs co-founder Graham Weston. “In 60 days, we went from an idea to piloting the concept of assurance testing.”
Community Labs is providing highly accurate PCR (polymerase chain reaction) screening at 350 school campuses across Bexar County, as well as six college campuses, said Sal Webber, President of Community Labs.
“What we’ve learned this year is that virus transmission is not happening in the schools that implement assurance testing,” Webber said. “During the 2020-2021 school year we saw an average positivity rate in schools of 0.5%, well below the more than 10% positivity rate we saw at public testing sites.”
Results from the highly accurate PCR tests are coming back in an average of 19 hours, allowing schools to quickly identify those who test positive and isolate them from the general population.
Dr. Rachel Beddard, Chief Medical Officer at BioBridge Global, said the need for testing will continue to grow.
“To help meet this need, we are significantly expanding our Community Labs testing capacity, from 15,000 a day now to more than 50,000 tests a day within the next two weeks,” she said. “We’re able to accomplish this by adopting a process for pooling test samples that is similar to how we perform high-volume screening of blood and plasma donor samples for hepatitis, HIV, West Nile and other viruses.”
Community Labs was co-founded in 2020 by Weston, former CEO and chairman of Rackspace Technology and founder of the 80|20 Foundation; J. Bruce Bugg Jr., chairman and trustee of The Tobin Endowment; and J. Tullos Wells, managing director of The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation.