As cases of COVID-19 continue to spike in the region, two Loudoun organizations are joining forces to provide testing for the masses.
Aperiomics, a Sterling-based biotechnology company that works to identify the root causes of infectious disease, announced Friday it had teamed up with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn to manufacture up to 2,500 COVID-19 test kits each week to supply hospitals and doctors. Janelia is volunteering its staff time and expertise along with essential equipment and supplies.
In addition to more than doubling the number of Xplore-COVID-19 test kits Aperiomics can manufacture each week, Janelia’s help has enabled the firm to reduce the out-of-pocket cost of the test from $250 to $99 per sample. Aperiomics CEO Dr. Crystal Icenhour said the tests should be 100-percent reimbursable through insurance companies.
Icenhour said her staff can manufacture the test kit in about 10 minutes and that the most difficult part of the process is ordering supplies, since there is a major shortage on test swabs right now. She said Aperiomics has 3,000 test kits in stock and has shipped out about 500, which now coming back in for processing.
Once a test kit is shipped to a doctor, a patient is asked to cough and open his or her mouth for the doctor to swab inside. That sample is then placed in a transport vial, which deactivates the virus if it’s present, and is sent to Aperiomics for same-day testing and reporting. Icenhour said the transport vials are made in a way that allows the samples to be kept at room temperature for up to 30 days.
So far, Aperiomics has found a handful of COVID-19-positive cases in its testing.
The partnership between Aperiomics and Janelia was forged in the past two weeks, when Janelia responded to a March 20 Aperiomics press release.
“They wanted to help and asked how they could help,” Icenhour said. “They were very generous to lend us some additional instruments.”
Ron Vale, Janelia executive director and Howard Hughes Medical Institute vice president, stated that Janelia is adapting and focusing its work to serve the greater good.
“I am proud that we can share our equipment and expertise to make a difference toward easing the COVID-19 testing needs of Loudoun County and beyond,” he said.
Icenhour said most of the $99 Aperiomics receives from each test kit covers staff time and the cost to manufacture and ship them. She said Aperiomics intends to donate a portion of the remaining proceeds to an area charity.
“We’re not looking to make a profit off the situation,” she said. “What we’re looking for is to support the public health system in the state of Virginia.”
Although Aperiomics is focused mainly on COVID-19 testing at the moment, it continues to run its core business—testing for nearly 40,000 microorganisms, which account for every known bacterium, virus, fungus and parasite.
Medical professionals interested in ordering COVID-19 test kits from Aperiomics may email email@example.com or call 703-229-0406.