Abbott Laboratories wants to ramp up production to at least 5 million tests in April, including COVID-19 diagnostic and serology tests, the company said on a first quarter earnings call on Thursday.
The company committed to manufacturing 50,000 rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests per day beginning in April, and according to President and CEO Robert Ford, the company has at least met that goal every day so far and has beaten the number several days. He added that Abbott aims aiming to manufacture 2 million of the tests by June.
In addition to its molecular tests, Abbott also announced a coronavirus serology test for the detection of antibodies. The company intends to ship 4 million serology tests in April, and ramp capacity up to 20 million tests per month starting in June, Ford said on the conference call. He added that Abbott has received orders for about 1 million of the antibody test.
Antibody tests may be key to reopening the country, according to many experts.
Ford also noted the company is in the process of developing a second serology test which is expected to launch in the near future. The test, he said, will increase Abbott's ability to provide mass testing for the general population.
The development of these tests began in the middle of February, Ford said, when Abbott realized the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not going to follow previous virus patterns, such as the 2003 SARS virus. The company developed four separate research and development teams, each tasked with working on a specific type of test: two molecular, two serology.
The company didn't start working on the tests because "we thought that we needed four shots on goal here to try and get one or two of them," to market, but because "all four of these different types of testing would be needed," Ford said.
Abbott also worked closely with federal regulators on developing its tests, providing updates to the U.S Food and Drug Administration at every step of the development process and accepting real-time feedback.
The company is also "actively working with government authorities and health systems to deploy these tests to places of greatest need," Ford said. Abbott provides daily reports to state and federal governments on where tests and equipment has been shipped to help allocate tests to hardest-hit areas, he added.
Despite the benefits of being a major COVID-19 test provider, the pandemic has negatively impacted Abbott's core lab business, since there have been decreases in routine testing and elective procedures. Ford said he expects those impacts to continue throughout the second quarter, but that in the second half of the year volumes should recover slightly.
"I don't believe that they're going to come back at the same speed they came down, but these are important procedures and I do see them coming back," he said.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Genomeweb.