(Reuters) – The U.S. government has awarded diagnostic testing company Cue Health Inc $481 million to scale up the production of rapid COVID-19 molecular test, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday.
The company will raise the domestic production of COVID-19 test kits to 100,000 per day by March 2021 under the deal and deliver 6 million tests and 30,000 instruments to the government to support its response to the pandemic, the health agency said.
The point-of-care test can detect the novel coronavirus in about 20 minutes with nasal swab samples collected using a Sample Wand from the lower part of the nose, the HHS said.
The system also allows results to be sent to a mobile phone via an app.
The company’s test kit was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June for emergency use in patient care settings under the supervision of qualified medical personnel.
The development of the company’s health platform was supported by funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for a molecular influenza test, starting in 2018, the department said.
BARDA later expanded the collaboration with the company to include the development of Cue’s COVID-19 test, it added.
(Reporting By Mrinalika Roy and Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)
Rick Bright, the federal vaccine chief-turned-whistleblower who was reassigned to a different agency and subsequently criticized the Trump administration’s pandemic response, has left the federal government, Bright’s lawyers announced on Tuesday.
“Dr. Bright was forced to leave his position at NIH because he can no longer sit idly by and work for an administration that ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists, resulting the [sic.] in the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” lawyers Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said in a statement.
HHS declined comment.
“We can confirm that Dr. Bright has resigned, effective today,” an NIH spokesperson said, adding that the agency “does not discuss personnel issues beyond confirming employment.”
Bright was abruptly removed as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in April and reassigned to NIH, and he alleges that he was demoted because he opposed political pressure linked to an unproven Covid-19 treatment. In his updated filing with the Office of Special Counsel, Bright said that he was assigned “no meaningful work” at NIH since Sept. 4, further alleging that NIH Director Francis Collins “declined to support” his recommendations about coronavirus testing “because of political considerations.”
Bright testified to a House panel in May that he was punished by Health and Human Services Department leaders for raising concerns about hydroxychloroquine, the drug favored by President Donald Trump to treat the coronavirus despite scant evidence. Bright also used the hearing and other media appearances to speak out against the administration’s handling of the pandemic, saying that HHS had missed opportunities to prepare for the spread of Covid-19 and raising further charges of cronyism.
Bright appears in an upcoming documentary, “Totally Under Control,” which faults the Trump administration’s handling of the outbreak and is set to be released next week. The New York Times first reported Bright’s resignation.
HHS has spent months rebuffing Bright’s claims, saying that as vaccine chief he lacked full visibility into the administration’s efforts and noting that Bright played a key role in the government’s acquisition of hydroxychloroquine. The health department also issued a document called “CLAIM vs. REALITY” that sought to rebut Bright’s points.
Meanwhile, Trump repeatedly dismissed Bright as a “disgruntled” employee.
Other officials have subsequently echoed Bright’s criticisms of the Trump administration’s handling of the outbreak, including Olivia Troye, who advised Vice President Mike Pence on the coronavirus response before leaving the White House this summer.