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In Brief This Week: XPrize Rapid COVID Testing Competition, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Color, and More

NEW YORK – XPrize and nonprofit OpenCovidScreen announced this week that they're holding a competition to accelerate the development of low-cost, high-quality COVID-19 testing solutions to ultimately scale testing capabilities by 100 times the current capacity. The XPrize Rapid COVID Testing Competition is asking for tests and devices with fast turnaround times that are easy to use in one of four categories: At-Home, Point-of-Care, Distributed Lab, or High-Throughput Lab.

Entries will be judged based on the overall innovation of the product, appropriate performance, turnaround time, scaling properties, ease of use, and cost, XPrize said. The prize is $5 million and there are a variety of founding partners, including Blue Shield of California, Anthem, and Cambia Health Solutions.

In addition, there is a $50 million project led by investors and company builders from Bain Capital, Redmile Group, and others that will work to accelerate, market, and scale the best technologies and innovations from the competition. Teams must register to join the competition by Aug. 31.


Thermo Fisher Scientific said this week that it has expanded its GlobalAccess Sequencing Program to include laboratories working in oncology. Under the program — which will continue through the end of the year and which is open to pathology laboratories currently running sequencing-based oncology assays or planning to do so — Thermo Fisher will subsidize a limited number of Genexus sequencing systems for a short time. The company introduced the program in May to speed up multi-institutional coronavirus transmission and epidemiology studies.


University of Southern California Student Health said this week that it has partnered with Color to provide COVID-19 testing to its students, faculty, and staff under a population surveillance testing program dubbed "Pop Testing." Starting in August, the university will set up three sample collection sites and run at least 500 tests per day for students and on-site faculty and staff. Eventually, it plans to transition to unobserved self-collection of samples. Color will provide software, testing logistics, sample processing, and delivery of results. USC did not disclose how much it will pay Color for its services.


The iReceptor Plus Consortium said this week it is making nearly 200 million immune sequences from COVID-19 patients freely available to researchers worldwide. The massive dataset contains T-cell and B-cell adaptive immune receptor repertoire sequencing (AIRR-seq) data collected from seven COVID-19 studies underway in the US, Germany, the UK, and China. The Israel-based consortium, funded by grants from the European Union and the Canadian government, is offering the sequences and related technology infrastructure to drug companies as well as to research institutions, and will be adding more data in the near future.


Horizon Discovery this week reported an unaudited trading update for the six months ended June 30. For the first half of the year, Horizon said it expects to report revenues of approximately £22.4 million, down 13.9 percent from revenues of £26.1 million in H1 2019. The change was largely due to the rapid reduction of academic research work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the firm’s research reagents business unit.

The company also said its cash position was bolstered by a successful placement in April, which raised £6.9 million in gross proceeds. Taking this into account, Horizon had cash and cash equivalents of £23.6 million as of June 30. 

The company said it plans to report its full financial results for H1 2020 on Aug. 17.


Applied DNA Sciences said this week that the US Food and Drug Administration amended an Emergency Use Authorization to expand the installed base of PCR instruments that can be used with the company's Linea COVID-19 assay kit, and to introduce automation with the use of robotic RNA extraction. Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Applied Biosystem QuantStudio 5 Real-Time PCR system can now be used with Applied DNA’s test. Also, the Hamilton Starlet robotic automation can be used in conjunction with the Omega Bio-tek Mag-Bind viral RNA Express kit to accelerate the extraction of viral RNA from patient specimens. Applied DNA's test received EUA from the FDA in May.


Seegene said this week that the US Food and Drug Administration expanded the Emergency Use Authorization for its Allplex 2019-nCoV Assay for detecting SARS-CoV-2. Labs can now use the company’s Starlet, Seegene Nimbus, Microlab Starlet IVD, and Microlab Nimbus IVD with Seegene StarMag RNA/DNA extraction kitsthe AdvanSure E3 System with AdvanSure NA EX Kits, GeneAll Ribospin vRD, Qiagen's QIAamp DSP Viral RNA Mini kits, MagNA Pure 96 System; and Thermo Fisher Scientific's KingFisher Flex System with MagMAX Viral/Pathogen Nucleic Acid Isolation Kits. For PCR instruments, laboratories can use Bio-Rad Laboratories’ CFX96 and CFX96 Touch systems or Thermo Fisher’s Applied Biosystems 7500 and 7500 Fast Dx real-time PCR detection systems.


Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS) said this week it has tapped CancerIQ to help it institute a cancer genetics programPatients will fill out a CancerIQ questionnaire on a tablet or smartphone to assess their risk for hereditary cancers based on family history. Those determined to be at high risk will be referred for genetic counseling, testing, and personalized care management, according to FCS. The practice is bringing on a genetic professional to augment the technology. The program will roll out in phases, starting in early August.


Adaptive Biotechnologies said this week it has launched the ImmuneSense Lyme research study, to inform the development of a Lyme disease diagnostic based on the firm's ImmunoSeq Dx technology. In the study, Adaptive will profile T cells in the body's immune response to Lyme disease, with the goal of finding a signature that detects the bacterial infection in its early stages. The company is seeking approximately 1,000 people in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest regions of the US, where most cases of Lyme disease occur, to participate in the study.


Laboratory Corporation of America said this week that it plans to create a program to offer total antibody testing for free through doctors to support increased blood plasma donations to potentially treat COVID-19. The lab company is part of the Fight Is In Us coalition to increase the donation of blood plasma with antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. LabCorp said it is working with public health authorities and the provider community on the details of the three-month program.


Todos Medical said this week it has completed its acquisition of the remaining shares of its joint venture Breakthrough Diagnostics from Amarantus Bioscience Holding. Todos said in May that it had exercised its option to acquire the remaining 80 percent of Breakthrough that it didn't already holdConcurrent with the deal, Todos said that it completed a capital raise of $2 million.


In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission this weekFulgent Genetics said it has agreed to buy a property in El Monte, California for $15.4 million in cash. The building, located at 4309-4401 Santa Anita Avenue, has about 61,612 square feet and sits on 2.6 acres of land. Fulgent has 60 days from July 23 to conduct due diligence and will provide a non-refundable $150,000 deposit prior to the expiration of the due diligence period.


In Brief This Week is a selection of news items that may be of interest to our readers but had not previously appeared on GenomeWeb.

The Scan

More Boosters for US

Following US Food and Drug Administration authorization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed booster doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, the Washington Post writes.

From a Pig

A genetically modified pig kidney was transplanted into a human without triggering an immune response, Reuters reports.

For Privacy's Sake

Wired reports that more US states are passing genetic privacy laws.

Science Paper on How Poaching Drove Evolution in African Elephants

In Science this week: poaching has led to the rapid evolution of tuskless African elephants.