Pennsylvania investing in Bethlehem-based medical company in attempt to create the first at-home coronavirus test

Written by on August 12, 2020

Pennsylvania investing in Bethlehem-based medical company in attempt to create the first at-home coronavirus test

“Our test has the potential to be a game-changer, to better detect and eliminate coronavirus, as we set our goals to test anybody, anywhere, at any time.”

Sam Dunklau, WITF

August 12, 2020

OraSure President & CEO Dr. Stephen Tang speaking to the press at a news conference with Gov. Tom Wolf and members of his administration.
OraSure President & CEO Dr. Stephen Tang speaking to the press at a news conference with Gov. Tom Wolf and members of his administration. Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf’s Department of Community and Economic Development is giving over $1 million in grants and tax credits to Lehigh Valley company OraSure, which said Tuesday it is developing a new coronavirus test that could provide results a short time after a patient takes it.

The Wolf administration sees rapid testing as crucial to containing the virus. So far, it remains elusive as the pandemic continues. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania recorded 828 new cases, bringing its total to 120,281.

Pennsylvania health experts are concerned about how long coronavirus tests take to process. Even those most in need of one have to wait at least 24 hours, meaning someone could spread the disease as they wait for a test result.

But that’s where OraSure Technologies, based in Bethlehem, could come in.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s Department of Community and Economic Development is giving over $1 million in grants and tax credits to Lehigh Valley company OraSure, which said Tuesday it is developing a new coronavirus test that could provide results a short time after a patient takes it.

The Wolf administration sees rapid testing as crucial to containing the virus. So far, it remains elusive as the pandemic continues. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania recorded 828 new cases, bringing its total to 120,281.

Pennsylvania health experts are concerned about how long coronavirus tests take to process. Even those most in need of one have to wait at least 24 hours, meaning someone could spread the disease as they wait for a test result.

But that’s where OraSure Technologies, based in Bethlehem, could come in.

“This [test] could help us in the future, as we look to the new normal moving forward,” he said, “in terms of making sure that we’re at the place we want to be in terms of total numbers of tests, but the turn-around time is good, the way it’s administered is good.”

OraSure is hoping it can begin rolling out millions of tests by the start of next year., but Tang was scant on details when asked how much the test would cost. He said it would be “affordable” for consumers and public health facilities once it hits the market.

The company already has a firm foothold in the disease testing market, as it manufactures, among other things, saliva collection equipment that’s being used at coronavirus testing centers.

OraSure is also promising to put 177 more people to work in order to get the test developed and produced in that timeframe. In exchange, the commonwealth is giving it a Pennsylvania First grant worth $531,000 and $531,000 in job creation tax credits.

The antigen test it’s developing would still need approval from FDA.

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