XPrize Puts Up $5 Million to Jumpstart Faster, Cheaper COVID-19 Tests

A $5 million rapid COVID-19 testing competition launched Tuesday by the Culver-City based XPRIZE Competition seeks to make tests cheaper and faster.

Long wait times for test results have hampered efforts across the country to contain coronavirus. As labs have fallen behind in some parts of the country, wait times have stretched into days and even weeks — and that's meant potentially infectious patients who haven't yet gotten their results aren't self-isolating.


"Fast, affordable, and accessible testing is crucial to containing the COVID-19 pandemic and safely reopening schools, businesses and other vital institutions around the world," said CEO of XPRIZE, Anousheh Ansari in announcing the competition. "XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing is inspiring the best entrepreneurial and scientific teams to come together to work towards rapid, affordable COVID-19 testing at scale, and ultimately, getting the world up and running again."

XPRIZE is partnering with OpenCovidScreen to spur production of a low-cost, easy-to-use and fast-result test. The organization hopes it will allow more people to be tested, and bring them closer to safely returning to their jobs and schools.

The competition encourages high school students, university groups, innovators and startups to form teams and work on a solution for the lack of testing capacity. It allows contestants to enter into one of four different categories such as: At Home, Point-of-Care, Distributed Lab, or High-Throughput Lab.

Teams have until August 31st to enter the competition and just 6 months to develop the test with certain requirements. The test must have a maximum turnaround time of 12 hours and cannot cost more than $15.

Blue Shield of California, Cambia Health Solutions, Health Care Service Corporation, GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation, Horizon Healthcare Services, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, The Anthem Foundation and Anthem Inc. are among the companies backing the effort.

And companies including Google, Amazon, Ilumina, Ancestry, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Exact Science, Centerview Partners, Twist Bioscience, Opentrons, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and Testing For America will help support contestants' need for technology and labs.

Five winners will share $5 million and can go on to benefit from The Covid Apollo Project's $50 million fund that aims to bring new testing methods to the market.

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