With concerns rising over the impact of long-term remote learning on students’ academic preparedness and mental health, providing as many tools as possible for schools to reopen is critical. Pooled classroom testing, which combines swabs from all consenting individuals in a classroom and runs them as a single test, is an effective way to significantly increase testing capacity and lower the cost of testing programs. Scaling cost-effective pooled testing across Massachusetts and other states nationwide will be an essential part of any effort to meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of reopening the majority of schools within the first 100 days.
Through the program, Ginkgo and other pooled testing service providers will supply lab and data processing services, all materials needed to collect and ship samples, as well as training for school staff to ensure a seamless implementation. All tests will be analyzed at a CLIA-certified laboratory. Ginkgo, which has been running a free pilot program through Concentric by Ginkgo to bring COVID-19 pooled testing to K-12 classrooms across the U.S., is currently supporting over 100 schools with testing nationwide, including dozens in Massachusetts. Through its pilot program, Ginkgo has supported a diverse set of schools in bringing testing on-site, ensuring that onboarding and testing processes are simple and scalable for districts across the country. Students are able to easily self-administer tests and reception to the pilot program has been positive, with school administrators and students alike describing the testing process as simple and painless.
“We commend Massachusetts for leading the charge to provide schools with the guidance and support to operate robust COVID-19 testing programs,” said Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks. “Low-cost, widespread testing that is quick and easy to administer is absolutely critical to facilitate the return to in-person learning. We look forward to playing an integral role in the American pandemic response strategy and helping students, teaching staff, and their families feel confident about going back to school.”
The testing initiative was announced as part of DESE’s resources and supports available for schools returning to in-person learning during the 2020-2021 school year, and marks the first state-sponsored pooled testing program within the U.S. It will run through March 28, 2021, after which schools will be able to leverage federal relief funding to continue offering the program.
“A top priority has been, and continues to be, finding a pathway for students and teachers to learn in school safely. Ginkgo has proven that they’re capable of running an effective testing program that K-12 schools can implement with confidence,” said Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services and Director of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Command Center. “With the support of Ginkgo and our other pooling service providers, the DESE and EOHHS feel confident that we are putting schools in the best place to facilitate the return to in-person learning.”
To date, Ginkgo has announced $70MM in fundraising to bring next-gen sequencing technology to testing and the availability of millions of rapid antigen tests in partnership with Access Bio. Learn more about Concentric by Ginkgo and our ongoing COVID-19 response efforts here.
About Ginkgo Bioworks
Headquartered in Boston, Ginkgo Bioworks uses the most advanced technology on the planet—biology—to grow better products. The company’s cell programming platform is enabling the growth of biotechnology across diverse markets, from food to fragrance to pharmaceuticals. Ginkgo is also actively supporting a number of COVID-19 response efforts, including community testing, epidemiological tracing, vaccine development and therapeutics discovery. For more information, visit www.ginkgobioworks.com.
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