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Ginkgo Bioworks, XpresCheck Receive $16M CDC Contract for SARS-CoV-2 Surveillance in US Airports

NEW YORK – Ginkgo Bioworks said on Monday that it has received a $16 million contract from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand its partnership with XpresSpa group surveilling SARS-CoV-2 in US airports.

With options, the contract could be worth as much as $61 million, the firms said in a statement. They plan to expand the program footprint to include Washington Dulles International Airport and incorporate new offerings, such as aircraft lavatory wastewater monitoring.

"This program has clearly demonstrated its potential to provide early warning for new COVID-19 variants, allowing researchers and public health officials across the country time to prepare for targeted response," Cindy Friedman, chief of the CDC's Travelers' Health Branch, said in a statement. "As many countries ramp down their pathogen surveillance efforts, we expect the partnership will play an increasingly important role not just nationally, but globally."

Ginkgo's Concentric subsidiary and XpresSpa's XpresCheck brand have been partnering on airport-based COVID-19 surveillance since August 2021. Currently, their COVID-19 surveillance program operates in New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport; Newark, New Jersey's Liberty International Airport; San Francisco International Airport; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Biosecurity, especially COVID-19 testing, has become the main revenue generator for Ginkgo. The firm launched Concentric in 2020 and has signed deals to implement biosecurity and pathogen monitoring infrastructure in Qatar and Rwanda.

The expanded airport surveillance program could help with early warning of future travel-associated outbreaks and pandemics, the firms added.