University City lab switches gears to create COVID-19 tests

Posted at 4:10 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 21:27:12-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A University City lab is switching gears to produce COVID-19 tests on a massive scale.

Friday, Helix CEO Marc Stapley took Mayor Kevin Faulconer on a tour of the lab, explaining how they used their technology that scans DNA to understand how genes affect your health, to look instead for COVID-19.

They changed focus mid-March and launch one of their two new tests next week. The second test will be available in the summer.

"As we are beginning to reopen our economy, as people are going back to work and doing it safely, one of the things we have to make sure we have enough of is testing," Mayor Faulconer said. He praised the company for finding solutions to a worldwide problem.

Helix's lab is mostly automated, making it ideal for rapid and safe production.

The test consists of a nasal swab, like cleaning your nostril out with a q-tip, versus the deeper more uncomfortable tests, and a vial filled with a solution.

The solution neutralizes the virus so it is safe to handle.

In June Stapley said their new "testing service can scale to 10,000 samples a day," so they can supply hospitals, employers and local governments.

The second test is said to be more sensitive than the CDC's test.

Stapley said, it "could be sent to individuals, but more likely bulk shipping to large distributors or places of work etcetera, and then individuals will take their kit and go do the necessary swab and send it straight to us."

The test results come back within 24 hours.