$5 Million Competition for New Rapid COVID Test

Victoria Giardina

July 29, 2020

A new $5 million, 6-month competition aims to develop faster, cheaper, and easier-to-use testing methods for the virus that causes COVID-19. The competition, sponsored by the XPRIZE Foundation and OpenCovidScreen, aims to eliminate frequent testing shortages and uncertain viral results by providing high-quality and affordable testing to enable safe reopening around the world.

“There is near infinite need and demand for COVID-19 tests, and we need screening testing capabilities 100-times greater than our current status to return our economy and society to normal function,” said Jeff Huber, president and co-founder of OpenCovidScreen.

Currently available tests are not designed for frequent use, according to the XPRIZE website. The competition, called XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing, will organize “the best entrepreneurial and scientific teams under one objective, ultimately resulting in getting the world up and running again."

Entries may use any one of four technologies: PCR, isothermal amplification, next generation sequencing, or antigen testing.

Winning COVID-19 tests will be more affordable compared to those already on the market, "about the price of a latte," the group says. However, the FAQ section of the website says that tests can cost up to $14 each, including any material and reagent costs.

The winning tests will also be at least equal to, if not better than, current tests at "measuring sensitivity, specificity, and limit of detection, with a maximum turnaround time of 12-hours from sample of result."

The test must also have such ease of use that a minimum of 500 tests can be conducted per week at a live testing site within 60 days and have the potential to scale up to thousands of tests per week.

While the prize group expects that many entrants will already be working on potential tests because of the complexity of the competition, anyone may apply, from university groups, high school students, startups and innovators, small to midsize companies, families, or individuals.   

The deadline to register is August 31, 2020. Winners will be announced at the end of January 2021.

The XPRIZE group takes an aspirational tone on its website: "Registering to create or join a team is the first step you can take to creating a better future for all."

Victoria Giardina is Medscape's editorial intern. She has previously written for The Dr. Oz Show and is currently a national lifestyle writer for Her Campus. She can be reached at vgiardina@webmd.net or on Twitter @VickyRGiardina.

July 30, 2020 — Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that winners will be announced in January 2021, not January 2020.

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