Thermo Fisher Scientific inks COVID-19 test tube deal with U.S. government

The U.S. government is rapidly scaling its quotas for COVID-19 testing and relying on drugmakers and manufacturers to step up to the challenge. Now, CDMO Thermo Fisher Scientific has scored a U.S. contract to help produce a key tool for the ramped-up testing. 

Thermo Fisher Scientific has won a contract with the U.S. government to produce viral transport media (VTM) tubes to carry COVID-19 test samples to laboratories, the company said Monday. 

Thermo Fisher has expanded its manufacturing capacity to 1 million media-filled tubes per week to meet increased demand for COVID-19 testing, the company said, including the new U.S. contract.

A Thermo Fisher spokesperson said the company was waiting for final details of the contract to be posted before releasing the financial terms of the deal.

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While that 1 million-tube capacity is already double its normal production run, Thermo Fisher has big things planned in the near future.

The company is in the final stages of a $40 million expansion at its Lenexa, Kansas, facility to ramp up VTM production to 8 million doses per week, the company said. The Lenexa expansion is expected to be completed in the third quarter and will eventually employ 300. 

"We have a proven blueprint for high-quality VTM production in Lenexa and look forward to bringing significant new capacity on line as quickly as possible to continue the necessary testing ramp-up in the U.S.," Thermo Fisher CEO Marc Casper said in a release.

RELEASE: Thermo Fisher, WuXi and Mayo Clinic to develop open-platform COVID-19 antibody test

Thermo Fisher has been at the center of the nationwide push to ramp up COVID-19 antibody testing, announcing last week it was working on a three-way partnership for a new test. 

Following clinical evaluation at the Mayo Clinic and its regulatory green light, Thermo Fisher is working with WuXi Diagnostics and the Mayo Clinic to seek approval for their ELISA antibody test. The diagnostic will be able to detect both IgM and IgG antibodies to the novel coronavirus and is designed to run on an open instrument platform.

Comprehensive testing also includes molecular tests for the disease, which detect the virus’s genetic material to diagnose an active infection. Thermo Fisher received an FDA emergency authorization for its PCR-based test kit in mid-March.