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Five Companies Win $6M XPrize Competition to Develop Fast, Cheap COVID-19 Testing

NEW YORK –XPrize announced on Tuesday the five winning teams in its $6 million Rapid COVID Testing competition, which was created to help bring fast and cheap COVID-19 tests to market.

The five winning teams are Carlsbad, California-based Reliable LFC; Carlsbad, California-based ChromaCode; Brooklyn, New York-based Mirimus; La Jolla, California-based La Jolla Institute for Immunology; and Alameda, California-based Alveo Technologies. The teams have developed COVID-19 tests that are "comparable to commercial offerings at measuring sensitivity, specificity, and limit of detection, with a maximum turnaround time of 12 hours from sample to result," XPrize said in a statement. 

The teams developed tests in one of four categories: PCR, isothermal amplification, next-generation sequencing, or antigen detection. The five teams used a variety of modalities and technologies, including rapid PCR, novel antigens, point-of-care loop-mediated amplification, olfaction, and breathalyzers. They will work to accelerate the adoption of their tests for the rest of the year and XPrize will develop a multimedia playbook to document the testing protocols, plans implemented, and lessons learned at deployment sites.

The 20 finalists for the prize, which was launched in collaboration with nonprofit OpenCovidScreen, were announced in December and those teams sent their testing kits to two separate laboratories for clinical validation. The judges then reviewed lab results, testing concepts, and proposals to choose the winners. Judges included Rick Bright, the former director of the US Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and now a member of President Joseph Biden's coronavirus advisory board; Charity Dean, the CEO and cofounder of the Public Health Company; Anne Wyllie, an associate research scientist at the Yale School of Public Health; Nurse Economist Shawna Butler; Paul Drain, an associate professor in the departments of global health, medicine, and epidemiology at the University of Washington; Anita Goel, chairman and CEO of Nanobiosym; and Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology, immunology, and infectious diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health. 

The prize comes out of the XPrize Pandemic Alliance, created in July to share ideas and resources to prepare for the current and other pandemics. A $50 million COVID Apollo Project led by life sciences investors, such as RA Capital, Bain Capital, and Redmile Group, will work with the XPrize community and OpenCovidScreen to accelerate the technologies to market and help them scale up.

"These technological breakthroughs in XPRIZE Rapid Covid Testing are providing a safety net to ensure the spread of the disease is contained and to enable a safe return to work and school, and to protect hotspots like nursing homes," Jeff Huber, president and cofounder of OpenCovidScreen, said. "These advancements are key to helping underserved, under-resourced communities get access to affordable, accurate tests and to ultimately save more lives now and in the future." 

In addition to the main prize, four other teams that could not be categorized in the main track won the Open Innovation Track: Houston-based Steradian Technologies; Guilford, Connecticut-based U-smell-it; Zweibrücken, Germany-based Ram Global; and Herzliya, Israel-based TeraGroup.