Alphabet’s Verily builds COVID-19 testing lab focused on ‘rapid turnaround’ of results
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Truly, the life sciences arm of Google parent company Alphabet set up its own coronavirus testing lab on Tuesday to get results faster.
The lab on the company’s South San Francisco, California campus was built to run “several thousand” tests a day, Verily said. The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases have risen and laboratories are returning results more slowly. Facilities that used to last two to three days now last a week or more.
“When the pandemic broke out, it became clear that we needed to quickly set up a laboratory and get the California state license and CLIA certification, which we did,” said Verily Head of Pathology Deb Hanks, referring to state standards for clinical laboratories. “We set up this laboratory to offer a focused special service with quick turnaround times.”
One way, Verily says, that it increases testing capacity is to study “pooled” tests, or combine breath samples from multiple people and run a lab test on the sample set. The Verily facility will primarily focus on customers of the company’s Healthy at Work program, designed to help businesses and schools get people back into offices or on campus.
Verily’s efforts were the source of drama and confusion earlier during the pandemic after President Donald Trump announced the federal government was partnering with Google on a coronavirus testing website. The tool, unexpectedly announced by the president, turned out to be a website that allows people to conduct a screener survey to determine if they should go to test stations for COVID-19.
The screening website has been subjected to a data protection review by the legislator. To use the online screener, users need to sign in with a Google account. Democratic Senators have urged Verily on the matter, but in April Verily stated that the requirements will be maintained for security and authentication reasons.