Genetic Technologies gets set for a temporary transition to mass-scale COVID-19 testing

Genetic Technologies Covid-19 testing capacity accredited laboratory NATA CLIA
Genetic Technologies intends to be able to conduct between 360,000 and 720,000 COVID-19 tests each year.

Molecular diagnostics company Genetic Technologies (ASX: GTG) has thrown its weight towards mitigating the effects of COVID-19 by drafting a “detailed implementation plan” that could see its genetic testing facilities transformed into a high-throughput COVID-19 testing laboratory.

In a statement to shareholders, Genetic said it has taken steps to enable a “temporary transition” of its facilities should government agencies require additional capacity to meet the growing demand for COVID-19 tests.

Genetic confirmed that initial work to identify laboratory workflows, instrument modification, laboratory compliance for biological and contaminated materials handling had already commenced, with test reagents supply lines – a key caveat for the company’s transition – also secured.

From an operational perspective, Genetic reassured investors that despite repositioning itself to be able to offer high-throughput COVID-19 testing, the move would not negatively impact its capacity to continue its current activities.

Currently, Genetic operates a fully accredited laboratory which the company said “places it in a unique position” to service both the Australian and the US market, subject to regulatory approvals.

According to its own estimates, the company thinks it could conduct around 360,000 tests per year with the potential to double output if required.

Australian testing model

Just yesterday, Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said the country’s high detection rate proved that Australia’s testing and surveillance regime was “highly effective”.

In comparison to other countries such as Spain and Italy, Australia has managed to keep both the number of recorded cases, deaths and infection rates very low – partly as a result of conducting more tests at an earlier stage of the pandemic.

To date, Australia has recorded 6,457 cases of COVID-19 with 63 deaths as of Thursday this week. In contrast to some European countries that are seeing hospitals overflowing with patients, in Australia, there are 42 people currently requiring ventilators, according to Mr Murphy.

“We are prepared to transition our laboratory for the purpose of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic subject to government and community needs,” said Dr George Muchnicki, interim chief executive officer of Genetic.

DIY testing

Possibly as a game-changer for Australians and the country macro-economically, self-testing is likely to play a key factor in determining how quickly the pandemic can be brought under control.

In addition to rejigging its operational focus concerning COVID-19, Genetic also announced that it had brought forward its plans to introduce a consumer-initiated testing (CIT) platform that would allow testing to be done without people having to visit a doctor or a hospital.

“This sales pipeline deviates from a traditional sales approach that targets clinicians and instead allows patients to request a test directly, with clinician oversight of the testing process through an independent provider network and telemedicine,” the company said.

Genetic announced that it has begun negotiations with a so-far unidentified independent provider network who will oversee patient ordering of the CIT pipeline and expects to sign a binding agreement within the next 30 days.

The news lifted Genetic’s shares by 60% up to $0.008 in morning trade.

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