Xprize launches $5 million rapid COVID testing competition

LAKE SUCCESS, NY - MARCH 11: A lab technician begins semi-automated testing for COVID-19 at Northwell Health Labs on March 11, 2020 in Lake Success, New York. An emergency use authorization by the FDA allows Northwell to move from manual testing to semi-automated. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)
LAKE SUCCESS, NY - MARCH 11: A lab technician begins semi-automated testing for COVID-19 at Northwell Health Labs on March 11, 2020 in Lake Success, New York. An emergency use authorization by the FDA allows Northwell to move from manual testing to semi-automated. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)
Darrell Etherington

Xprize is turning its tried and tested model of offering cash prizes to spur innovation in critical areas to the challenge of COVID-19 testing. the nonprofit has created a $5 million prize pool for a Rapid COVID Testing competition, in partnership with an organization called OpenCovidScreen formed by scientists, researchers and industry leaders to drive open scientific collaboration on the topic.

The competition calls for participants to develop low-cost, rapid result testing solutions that can supplement those already in existence in order to massively scale testing capabilities and pave the way for safe reopening strategies. It's open to potential solutions across a number of categories, including at-home tests, those conducted at point-of-care, distributed lab testing and finally high-throughput lab solutions.

Judging for the ultimate prize awards will focus on their innovation, their performance, how quickly they can deliver results (with the max allowable turnaround time capped at 12 hours), how scalable they are and how easy to use and cost-effective they can be (with a cost ceiling of $15 per test). The Xprize organization is also encouraging people to try a range of different technologies in their proposed solutions in order to diversify and ensure sustainability of the supply chain.

In order to take part, teams must join the competition by August 31, 2020. The competition aims to announce grand prize winners by the end of January, and the plan is to award $1 million each to five teams.

Following the competition, participants can also benefit from a $50 million fund established by the COVID Apollo Project to develop, deploy and scale their solution to actual production and distribution.

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