Air Force signs deal for COVID-19 oral tests

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The Air Force has signed a deal to distribute oral fluid tests for COVID-19 among U.S. military personnel around the world.

Under the terms of the deal, the Air Force will use Food and Drug Administration-approved kits  from COVID-19 testing specialist Curative. “In this initial agreement, Curative will rapidly establish a new laboratory facility, fully operational this week, which will process up to 50,000 tests per day for the presence of COVID-19,” said Curative, in a press release. “In future phases of this agreement, Curative will establish eight testing locations across the U.S. to support testing for the U.S. population.”

The oral fluid test has an average turnaround time of 24 hours, according to Curative, which says that it is currently producing 20,000 collection kits per day. “Our oral fluid test reduces the strain on PPE and existing testing supply chains while being accurate and easy to use,” said Curative CEO Fred Turner in the statement.

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According to a statement released by the Air Force, the $13 million deal was signed on April 17. "The agreement provides for the initial production of more than 40,000 test kits and associated training for military medical personnel," it said, in the statement. "Testing is expected to begin in the next two weeks."

United States Air Force airmen help build a makeshift morgue outside of Bellevue Hospital to handle an expected surge in coronavirus victims on March 27, 2020 in New York City.

United States Air Force airmen help build a makeshift morgue outside of Bellevue Hospital to handle an expected surge in coronavirus victims on March 27, 2020 in New York City. (Noam Galai/Getty Images)

“For over two years, we’ve been accelerating our government purchasing system to work with innovative tech startups who need fast decisions and cash,” said Dr. Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisitions czar, in the statement. “We had the right innovation network in place to find this potentially game-changing test and strike a deal at wartime speeds. Our men and women in uniform, and our nation, need a highly-scalable coronavirus test.”

The Curative-Korva SARS-Cov-2 Assay received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA on April 16. The device tests for SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid that has been extracted, isolated and purified from oral fluid specimens, as well as throat, nasopharyngeal swabs and nasal swabs, according to the FDA’s authorization letter.

“This test is to be performed only using respiratory specimens collected from individuals suspected of COVID-19 by their health care provider,” explained, the FDA, in a fact sheet.

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Curative says that it has tested more than 75,000 people for COVID-19 and is currently processing approximately 6,000 test results per day in Los Angeles. Defense contractor Gothams is also involved in the development of Curative’s testing supply chain.

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As of Thursday afternoon, more than 2.65 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, at least 843,981of which are in the U.S. The disease has accounted for at least 185,494 deaths around the world, including at least 46,785 people in the U.S.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers