Queensland medtech startup Ellume has secured a US$231.8 million ($304 million) contract with the US Department of Defense, to boost the production capabilities of its DIY COVID-19 testing kit.
The contract, awarded in coordination with the US Department of Health and Human Services, will allow the business to expand its production capacity to 640,000 tests per day by December 2021.
The US government plans to purchase 8.5 million of those tests as part of its national strategy to stem the spread of the virus, in accordance with its new President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness policy.
The test pairs a nasal swab with a smartphone app, which can display a positive or negative COVID-19 result within about 20 minutes.
It allows for fast detection of infection, without the patient having to leave the house, thereby helping stem the spread of infection.
In a statement, Ellume founder and chief Sean Parsons called the test “an essential tool for the broader pandemic response”.
This is particularly true in the US, which is recording more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases daily, and where more than 440,000 people have died from the virus.
“Our focus is enabling the US to minimize community transmission and reopen as quickly as possible,” Parsons said.
“We are prioritising our partnership with the US government to mobilise tests quickly and in the most impactful way.”
Development of the Ellume test was fast-tracked after the startup secured a $30 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative.
In December last year, the product became the first fully-at-home diagnostics test to be granted FDA Emergency Use Authorization, after trials demonstrated 96% accuracy for both symptomatic and asymptomatic people.
Ellume started out in 2010 as a self-diagnostics tool allowing people to use their phones to detect flu viruses.
In June 2019, the startup raised $5 million in funding, with Parsons telling SmartCompany an ASX listing was on the cards.
The tech is about empowering people to manage their illnesses at home, Parsons said at the time, while also helping contain contagious diseases and encouraging education around health.
Headquartered in Brisbane, the startup has always viewed the US as its key market for expansion, partly because free healthcare in Australia means patients are less likely to self-test at home.