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On-the-go coronavirus test maker gets $10 million NIH contract to scale up production

A San Jose, California-based medical device company is scaling up production of a rapid coronavirus test that can be administered anywhere.

Visby Medical earlier this week received a $10 million contract from the National Institute of Health to boost its monthly manufacturing capacity of 10,000 tests tenfold.

“The intent is really to be able to decentralize PCR testing and make it available to anyone who needs to get tested,” Adam de La Zerda, CEO of Visby, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer in a “Mad Money” interview Friday.

Visby developed a palm-sized PCR device to provide users both fast and accurate tests, two things that have been tough to provide in reliable coronavirus testing. The company has already increased its headcount by four times this year to 350 employees, adding 25 new workers to its payroll each week, de La Zerda said.

The privately held company in late September received U.S. Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization for its single-use personal polymerase chain reaction, commonly known as PCR, device that can return Covid-19 results in 30 minutes. A nasal swab can be inserted into the kit and results will be presented on the device.

“The nice thing about this is becasue it’s a single-use device … you can actually run 200 of these in parallel and be able to get this unlimited testing capacity,” de La Zerda said.

PCR testing is considered the gold standard in diagnostics for being sensitive enough to find small viral loads in samples. Visby’s device could be used to help create Covid-free zones, de La Zerda said.

Visby has received interest from health institutions like children’s cancer hospitals and nursing homes, who are looking for ways to allow families to safely visit their children and elderly parents.

“We’ve now been contacted by a number of really, really important places that want to use these tests,” de La Zerda added. “They don’t want to transmit [the disease]. This is what you need, speed and accuracy.”

Visby is one of six companies to receive part of $98.35 million in awards from the health agency as part of its Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program.

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