Startup Aims to Produce 10,000 COVID-19 Kits a Day at Los Angeles Lab

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

Startup Aims to Produce 10,000 COVID-19 Kits a Day at Los Angeles Lab

At a 10,000 square foot San Dimas lab, Fred Turner is furiously trying to save people from COVID-19.

The head of a Bay Area startup known as Curative Inc. arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday, on a near empty flight, as he launched a production facility to produce coronavirus testing kits. They'll be deployed to drive-thru testing centers across the United States, which National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said was severely lagging other countries in determining how widespread the virus is.

Turner's startup is "aiming to add 10,000 test per day capacity in about two weeks," he said. "We can now do 50 a day, by Monday 150, and the end of the week 1,000 a day."


Los Angeles County, home to more than 10 million people, has suffered like other parts of the country with a shortage of tests. So far, county officials said about 250 people have been tested as of March 11. Stories abound of sick patients who want to see if they have COVID-19 but can't because there's a shortage of kits and labs that can analyze them.

In Denver, one city that has set up drive-thru testing centers, there are reports of four-hour waits.

"We thought the big testing labs would have it under control, but it became apparent to us that there wasn't enough testing," he said. Turner, whose company normally works on trying to prevent deaths due to sepsis, said his team was working on scaling up a manual testing process often used in research and development labs to create kits.

Unlike other labs which rely on off-the shelf testing kits and automated machines, Turner will use a process that requires more steps to extract information from RNA to determine whether or not somebody has the virus.

He was helped earlier this month by federal officials who issued emergency authorization for labs to develop tests.

Turner said his tests will provide results within 24 hours and eliminate unnecessary risk to health care workers by using saliva samples taken from a swab, rather than nasal ones which require a nurse. "The largest deficit right now is not screening health care workers," he said. "That's just unacceptable."

On Wednesday, the union representing California nurses staged protests around the state calling for more stringent workplace safety guidelines than those provided by Center for Disease Control, which it says leaves them at risk for contracting the virus.

Working with Bay Area startup 650Health, along with another company, Turner aims to get the tests distributed at drive-thru clinics, at homes, and through employers.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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