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Exact Sciences, Promega Aiding in COVID-19 Testing in Wisconsin

NEW YORK – Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced on Monday that the state has initiated a new public-private partnership to increase its laboratory testing capacity for COVID-19.

The partnership includes laboratory support from Exact Sciences, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Promega, and UW Health. These organizations, along with the Wisconsin Clinical Lab Network, will share knowledge, resources, and technology to bolster Wisconsin's testing efforts, which had been led by the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene and the Milwaukee Public Health Lab, Evers' office said.

In a statement, Evers commended the work of state hygiene and public health labs to expand testing capacity and ensure that Wisconsin doesn't have a backlog of COVID-19 tests, but added that "even with these combined efforts, unfortunately, we know all too well that as this disease spreads there will be significant pressure on our labs to keep pace with testing."

The Wisconsin Clinical Lab Network labs have been averaging 1,500 to 2,000 COVID-19 tests per day. The expanded capacity from the new public-private partnership is expected to double that capacity initially, and will continue to expand as additional platforms and supplies become available.

Exact Chairman and CEO Kevin Conroy noted that the company is repurposing some of its existing equipment and reconfiguring areas of its laboratory space to help scale up Wisconsin's COVID-19 testing capabilities. In an email to GenomeWeb, the company also said that it is planning to be able to process hundreds of tests in the near term, ramping up to thousands of tests in the coming weeks.

"Exact Sciences is leveraging our flexible, automated, and accurate platform to help support testing for COVID-19. … The COVID-19 effort is taking place in parallel with the continued operation of our Cologuard and Oncotype DX businesses," the company added. "Additionally, Exact Sciences has been investing in technology and increasing network capacity to meet growing demands."

Promega is providing reagents for COVID-19 tests, as well as expertise on robotics and instrumentation to allow for high-throughput testing. In an email to GenomeWeb, Sara Mann, Promega's general manager for the North America branch, said that Promega had already been in communication with various state and local labs about the most effective way to support testing efforts.

"Some labs in the state had been using Promega reagents and others are looking at adding Promega reagents to their testing options," she added. "Promega reagents and instruments will be used at a new COVID-19 testing lab located at Exact Sciences in Madison, Wisconsin."

Marshfield Clinic Health System will provide its own testing abilities, particularly its capacity to turn results around within a day or less, Marshfield CEO Susan Turney said in a statement. She also noted that participation in the public-private partnership will allow the health system to more precisely allocate its resources to patients that need them most.