Community Labs soon will be performing up to 10,000 COVID-19 tests a day and expects to reach capacity of 20,000 or more per day by January, BioBridge Global executives told members of The Blood & Tissue Center Foundation board of directors on Monday.
The organization, which is a nonprofit partnership among local charitable foundations and BioBridge Global, is expanding its community reach for its highly accurate test for COVID-19.
“The real focus is to get schools up and running,” said Richey Wyatt, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at BioBridge Global, who noted that this week, testing was being expanded to seven school districts, mainly on the South Side.
Testing also is projected to start soon for the 300 employees of the state’s Child Protective Services in San Antonio, as well as Trinity University.
“When we started with Somerset ISD, we were doing 500 tests a week, and that ramped up to 500 tests a day,” Wyatt said. “We should have the capacity to be able to perform 10,000 tests per day within a couple of weeks.
“I’d say probably by January, we should be able to double that capacity to 20,000 to 24,000 tests a day.”
Community Labs, which is just the second high through-put “PCR” COVID-19 testing laboratory of its kind in the United States, is beginning to attract outside attention, with interest from officials in the hard-hit El Paso area, as well as Louisiana, Idaho and Georgia, Wyatt said.
All the technology and procedures the lab is using will be made available to anyone who asks, said Dr. Rachel Beddard, Chief Medical Officer at BioBridge Global.
“They’re calling it ‘laboratory in a box’” she said. “They are putting all the information together for any city that might want to do this.”
Community Labs is using the highly accurate PCR test, Dr. Beddard said, checking for three different genetic sequences from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“Some PCR tests look for just one or two, but this one looks for three,” she said. “It’s one of the most sensitive tests out there.”
The tests are designed to identify the so-called “silent spreaders” of COVID-19, individuals who do not have any of the common symptoms. The goal is to make testing much more economically feasible, at just $35 a test vs. $150, and provide a turnaround time of less than 24 hours, to help stop the spread of the virus.