Apr 29, 2020 - Health

NIH to start "Shark Tank" process to speed up coronavirus tests

The U.S. is conducting about 1.6 million COVID-19 tests per week right now. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The National Institutes of Health is spending $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money to speed the development of COVID-19 tests, with a goal of creating "millions" of quick tests every week "by the end of summer 2020, and even more in time for the flu season," the federal agency said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Containing the coronavirus outbreak and resuming a semblance of normal life will require a big increase in the country's testing capacity, which is still well below where experts say it should be.

Driving the news: NIH is going to set up a "Shark Tank"-like process, awarding money to companies that have promising ideas and helping those tests get quicker regulatory approval, NIH director Francis Collins said on a conference call.

  • The focus will be on viral tests that provide accurate results and are easy to use at home or the point of care.
  • NIH officials said they hope this initiative will substantially increase the weekly test capacity, but they did not want to put a precise number on a goal.
  • The agency aims to commercialize five tests from the pool of applicants.

The bottom line: The U.S. is currently conducting 1.6 million COVID-19 tests per week. However, experts believe we need to be doing at least 3.5 million per week — some say at least 30 million per week — to have a better idea of who has the virus.

Go deeper

Jun 5, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus diagnostic test pricing is relatively tame

A medical professional administers a coronavirus test at a drive-thru testing site run by George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Anecdotes of labs charging thousands of dollars for coronavirus diagnostic tests are the exception rather than the rule, according to data provided to Axios by a national health insurer.

Yes, but: Some labs that don’t contract with the insurer charged rates that are multiple times higher than what Medicare pays for the diagnostic tests, and in some scenarios, patients may be at risk of receiving surprise bills.

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The NBA's Board of Governors approved Thursday the league's 22-team plan to resume play at Walt Disney World — a plan that also includes tentative dates for both this season and next.

Why it matters: The league's proposed trip to Disney World not only impacts this season but could have a domino effect that impacts seasons in the future — and could permanently change what time of year the NBA plays its games.

Trump's week of viral quicksand

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Stories about President Trump's photo op at St. John's church after peaceful protesters were forcefully cleared from the area averaged the most online attention of any issue about the president this week.

Why it matters: Trump's force-over-compassion approach to the demonstrators protesting the murder of George Floyd had Republican allies backpedaling to keep a distance — and led to a wave of condemnations that got plenty of online traction on their own.