Xprize Launches $5 Million Competition For Better Covid-19 Tests

September 16, 2020

A new XPrize contest calls for “the smartest people in the world” to develop a faster, cheaper COVID-19 test, with a $5 million prize for the winner.

The contest was launched on Tuesday (July 28) by the non-profit organization XPrize, which holds open competitions to encourage technological innovations that benefit humanity. Dubbed the “XPrize Rapid COVID Test,” the contest will run for six months, with the winner to be announced in early 2021, according to a statement from XPrize.

The goal of the competition is to develop a low-cost, easy-to-use COVID-19 test with a fast turnaround time, the statement said. Specifically, the test should have a turnaround time of no more than 12 hours, although certain types of tests can provide results in about 15 minutes, the organization said. Each test should cost no more than $15, according to Mashable. (Currently, most COVID-19 tests cost about $100 each, according to Mashable.) The winning team should be able to run at least 500 tests per week for 60 days, with the potential to scale to thousands of tests per week, XPrize said.

“Fast, affordable and accessible testing is critical to curbing the COVID-19 epidemic and safely reopening it to schools, businesses and other critical institutions around the world,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPrize, in a statement.” The XPrize Rapid Covid Test is inspiring the best entrepreneurial and scientific teams to work together to make rapid, affordable COVID-19 testing available at scale, and ultimately to make the world work again.”

Teams can participate in one of four types of tests. At Home, Point of Care, Distributed Lab or High-Throughput Lab, the statement said. Competitors can choose from a variety of tests, such as PCR tests, which look for the genetic material of the virus, or those that test for viral proteins, called antigen tests.

According to the competition guidelines, there will be five winning teams, each of which will receive $1 million, with the possibility of multiple teams winning the same assay.

For the competition, XPrize will be partnering with OpenCovidScreen, a nonprofit organization that aims to drive innovation in COVID-19 testing.

XPrize will also partner with the COVID Apollo Program, a $50 million grant from organizations such as RA Capital, a life sciences investment firm, to help scale the best competition ideas and bring them to market.