Senior U.S. health delegate Francis Collins told a Senate hearing Thursday that the nation needs better diagnostic testing technology to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said present testing technology still depends on sending samples to labs for results, and new technologies have to be developed to deliver exams that rapidly ship outcomes on-site and be widely distributed.
Collins’ comments echoed these by Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, who stated last month that “we’ve got to have a breakthrough innovation in testing” to reopen the economy.
A shortage of tests has dented the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed about 74,000 people in the nation and infected over 1.2 million. In April, the NIH announced plans to fund the development of new testing technologies in academia and business, and scale them up by the end of summer.
The venture, called Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx), has a total of $1.5 billion in federal support and will also invest in ongoing NIH analysis into testing technologies.
A Harvard University study launched in April stated the U.S. might have the capacity to conduct as many as 20 million tests per day to reopen the economy completely. A total of about 7.8 million tests have been carried out in the nation up to now, based on the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer group that displays test outcomes.