A locally developed rapid COVID-19 test that’s already being evaluated by The Queen’s Medical Center and the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine is now a finalist in the international XPRIZE Rapid Covid Testing competition.

Called ASSURE-19, the test was selected as a semifinalist from a pool of nearly 700 teams from around the world competing for the prize. Honolulu-based research and development firm Oceanit is developing ASSURE-19 in the hopes of earning an FDA Emergency Use Authorization to be deployed during the pandemic.

The XPRIZE competition is designed to encourage the development of faster, cheaper, and easier to use testing methods at scale. This would remove delays, lack of supplies, and post-infectious results from the equation by creating rapid, frequent testing that allows for a safe reopening of communities and economies.

The XPRIZE Foundation is an international nonprofit formed in 1994 that has funded innovative competitions in the domain areas of Space, Oceans, Learning, Health, Energy, Environment, Transportation, Safety and Robotics.

“Oceanit entered this XPRIZE competition because we too believe in the critical mission of affordable, regular testing: high-risk and already exposed persons should receive Covid-19 tests immediately and get results immediately,” says James Andrews, head of marketing at Oceanit.

“PCR (polymerise chain reaction) tests remain our gold standard, but long waits and post-infectious phase positive results render them ineffective for stemming the spread,” he explains. “Like a pregnancy test that tells a woman she was pregnant in month 10, or a thermometer that reports a fever from three days ago, results delivered days after infectiousness miss the crucial point when viral load is the most contagious.”

The first XPRIZE was the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight, which spurred an entire new industry and created exponential launch vehicle and space travel breakthroughs. Just as XPRIZE stimulated the private space race, this Covid-19 XPRIZE is a way to stimulate evolution in medicine.

“We now realize that current medicine discovery has limitations, as we were all surprised by the Novel Coronavirus,” Andrews says. “We are at the beginning of a new medical technology frontier… these are the seeds that will create new industries and economic growth for decades to come.”

All XPRIZE semifinalists will perform blind proficiency testing on inactive virus samples using their various solutions. Oceanit’s ASSURE-19 tests will be graded based upon these blind tests and its performance will determine whether it will be among 20 finalists for a final round of independent lab testing exercises.

“Results have been very promising in both the in-vitro and in-vivo sampling that has been conducted to date,” Andrews says.

Visit https://assure19.com to learn more.

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