Having expanded its COVID-19 testing lab, Mount Sinai is gunning for a contract that would provide testing services to the city's schools, it announced Tuesday.
Earlier this year the health system established the Mount Sinai COVID Lab with Hell's Kitchen–based Pershing Square Foundation, a not-for-profit organization tackling social issues, as part of a pilot program to provide saliva-based testing for charter schools. The foundation provided $500,000 to launch that program, said Dr. David Reich, president of Mount Sinai Hospital.
In April the foundation provided an undisclosed grant for Mount Sinai to expand the lab, Reich said. It moved to Mount Sinai Beth Israel in Gramercy Park, in which it occupies about 6,000 square feet. It cost $4 million to build and equip, Reich said.
The new space will be able to process 25,000 tests per day by June and will be ramped up to 100,000 tests per day in the following months. The saliva-based test is capable of returning results within 12 to 24 hours, said Dr. Alberto Paniz-Mondolfi, assistant professor of pathology, molecular and cell-based medicine. His team developed the test. It has provided 100% consistency of results compared to the highest-performing swab-based test that Mount Sinai is using, he added.
Additionally, the lab is equipped with standard molecular testing equipment that can be repurposed or sold to other organizations once the need for COVID-19 testing passes, Paniz-Mondolfi said.
The success of the pilot with KIPP NYC Public Schools, a local network of 15 free public charter schools that is part of the largest charter network nationally, paved the way for the test to be offered to schoolchildren throughout the city, Reich said. NYC Health + Hospitals had put out a request for proposal for vendors to provide COVID-19 testing for the fall semester as public schools return to in-person instruction. Mount Sinai submitted its application today.
Part of the application process requires vendors to show they are working with minority- and women-owned business enterprises. To that effect, Mount Sinai has tapped C-19 Safety First, a woman-owned organization serving the metropolitan area, for collection of saliva samples, and Verbosity, a Black-owned, Virginia-based firm, for IT support and communication efforts, Reich said. Mount Sinai is working with those companies in obtaining state MWBE certification, he added.
However, Mount Sinai isn't waiting around until the fall to leverage its expanded testing capacity. The health system is actively reaching out to corporations and school districts conducting summer sessions—offering testing services—and the revenue generated can be used to provide free testing to charter schools or any institutions unable to afford it, Reich said.
"We hope this public-private partnership will reduce the cost of testing for New York schools and ultimately provide a safe way for students to return to the classrooms," Reich said.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's New York Business.