Before the pandemic, clinical diagnostics were initiated, administered and interpreted in conventional healthcare settings, such as doctors’ offices. But as the need for expanded access to rapid, accurate testing significantly increased and individuals wanted more control over their own health, the role of clinical diagnostics shifted, taking center stage in the diagnosis and management of diseases such as COVID-19.
Today, clinical diagnostics are seen as an integral part of individual and population health. Laboratories that were once considered uniform services across the industry are now distinguished from one another based on their technical expertise required to deliver accessible, rapid, affordable and accurate results.
Revolutionizing Clinical Diagnostics
The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a revolution within clinical diagnostics, a field that has long used antiquated processes and is ripe for disruption with innovative and new methodologies. The pandemic required at-scale testing, and the founders of the Pandemic Response Lab saw that as an opportunity to combine their expertise to advance clinical diagnostics to meet that need.
Opentrons Labworks, Inc., PRL’s parent company, and research scientists at NYU Langone, led by world-class geneticist Dr. Jef Boeke, partnered to establish PRL. The scientists applied the inherent innovation of a research laboratory in tandem with Opentrons’ robotics and operational expertise to increase the speed and accuracy of testing. PRL quickly surpassed the standard volume of other laboratories of roughly 100-300 tests per day to 58,000 tests per day, delivering 99% of results within 24 hours. Our current capacity surpasses 100,000 tests per day across our three CLIA-certified labs. PRL was able to achieve a level of operation equivalent to a much larger laboratory with more resources, and deliver crucial information at a public-health scale.
PRL was able to assemble an entire laboratory in a matter of weeks due to its multidisciplinary team across automation, process development, software engineering, manufacturing and clinical science. This amalgamation of specialties and intimate working knowledge of a clinical laboratory enabled the company to configure its robotics into proprietary workflow designs and fine-tune each step for maximum efficiency.
This control over the software, hardware and chemistry provides the flexibility to easily and quickly adapt to supply chain disruptions and volume fluctuations. It also reduces the time to bring new tests to market while avoiding tradeoffs between speed, cost and quality.
PRL was established in response to the pandemic that demanded a paradigm shift in clinical diagnostic capacity and solutions. PRL seized that opportunity and applied the most scientifically appropriate approach, disregarding big company decision-making processes to bring innovative solutions to market.
Expanding Beyond COVID-19
Building on its successes and learnings during an unprecedented time in global health, the company’s expansion strategy includes panel testing for infectious diseases, routine health and oncology. In March 2022, it launched its concise respiratory panel, which tests four viruses: SARS-CoV-2, influenza A and B, and respiratory syncytial virus, at a cost lower than many COVID-19-only PCR tests.
PRL’s ability to provide rapid, reliable, low-cost testing at scale that simultaneously tests for multiple disease targets can significantly reduce time to diagnosis and improve access to care, as well as prompt, targeted treatment and better health outcomes. PRL believes affordability is a core tenant to expansion and availability. That ensures a greater reach across all populations and empowers people to take control of their own health, particularly among uninsured and historically underserved communities.
Applying learnings from the pandemic, PRL is working on the development of dozens of syndromic and routine health panels across the diagnostic landscape to make rapid, accurate and low-cost testing accessible to all populations.