GSK, AstraZeneca in talks for joint U.K. COVID-19 diagnostics project: Bloomberg

GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are considering forming a joint laboratory to help the U.K. government stretch and expand its supplies for COVID-19 diagnostic tests, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Even though diagnostics are not their core efforts, the plan is for the two Big Pharmas to test a range of different reagents, chemical mixtures and other materials for new ways to help detect the spreading novel coronavirus. Successes would be provided to other manufacturers or the U.K.’s National Health Service.

An AstraZeneca spokesperson told Bloomberg the company has contacted the government about using “in-house scientific capabilities to increase the effectiveness of the national testing effort” but did not provide specifics. Meanwhile, GSK said it has provided lab equipment and scientific advice, according to the report.

At the same time, the U.K.’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said GSK and AstraZeneca have begun working with the country’s diagnostics companies to help build up the industry’s scale. At a press briefing last week, Hancock also set a goal of increasing coronavirus testing to 100,000 per day by the end of the month.

Global supplies of testing reagents and other materials, including swabs, have been faced with overwhelming demand in recent weeks. 

In March, Dutch diagnostics maker Qiagen announced plans to more than quadruple the production of some of its kits, used to extricate viral RNA strands from a sample. By the end of April, the company aims to enable more than 6.5 million tests worldwide before increasing that number to over 10 million by the end of June.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the federal government's 3D printed manufacturing accelerator is working to coordinate the production of single-piece nasopharyngeal swabs used for COVID-19 sample collection as well as personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.