California-based Innova, the world’s biggest rapid COVID-19 test maker, is setting up a factory in Wales that will produce millions of tests a day.
CEO Dan Elliot told the Financial Times (FT) that the UK was a key market for the company in which it is making large investments.
“We’ve been a good partner to the government, the government’s been a good partner to us,” he said.
Innova, owned by private equity firm Pasaca Capital, has supplied the UK with more than 1 billion tests produced in China, as part of contracts worth more than £3bn ($4bn), FT reported.
The UK, Innova’s biggest market for lateral flow devices (LFD), has spent more than £100m transporting these and other tests from China.
Innova makes lateral flow antigen tests, which have a quick turnaround time. Its LFD detect the presence of a target substance sample without the need for specialised and costly equipment.
“We were ahead of the competition in terms of developing these products but also scaling at mass,” Elliott said. The company is increasing production of its tests globally, and hopes to reach 50 million tests a day by the end of the year, according to the FT report.
Elliott told the publication he expects demand for lateral flow tests to remain high for the next three to four years.
“When you look at it, the more we travel the more mixing of variants there will be,” he said.
Earlier, UK ministers had said lateral flow tests would be used to crack down on fresh coronavirus outbreaks once lockdown restrictions are eased but the accuracy of Innova’s tests has come under scrutiny in the UK.
Last month the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved LFD to be used to detect coronavirus cases but not to act as a “green light” for people who test negative to "enjoy greater freedoms," the Guardian reported.
"There is very little data to show how well the Innova lateral flow devices detect the virus when used as a self-test by someone who has no symptoms. They are being used by millions of people a week in England under the government’s universal testing programme," the report said.
However, Elliot said there is a “lack of understanding” about lateral flow tests and PCR tests.
He said: “PCR is a test to determine if you’re infected, whereas an tells you if you’re infectious.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Social Care has said the UK “is now established as a testing and diagnostics powerhouse, with over 168.4m tests conducted."
"Collaboration continues to be a priority and we are hugely grateful to all the manufacturers and suppliers who have offered their assistance in the production of COVID-19 tests.”
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