Ortho signs $53.7M government contract to triple its COVID-19 test production

Vaccination rates may be steadily climbing across the country, but companies hope COVID-19 testing won't slow down any time soon. In fact, manufacturers are now ramping up production of antigen and antibody tests, with Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, for one, expecting to triple its output within the next year.

Ortho’s increased production will be backed by a new contract with the U.S. government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, known as BARDA, and a COVID-19 acquisition task force set up by the Air Force.

Through the $53.7 million deal, Ortho is slated to churn out up to 6.7 million COVID tests each month by April 2022, up from its current rate of 1.8 million tests per month.

Included in the expansion are Ortho’s two antibody tests, which received emergency authorizations from the FDA in April 2020. One of the tests detects IgG antibodies, found in elevated levels in a blood sample even after a patient has recovered from the virus, while the other detects all types of antibodies related to COVID-19.

The BARDA and Department of Defense contract will also fund the production of Ortho’s antigen test, which became the first high-volume COVID antigen test to be granted an emergency authorization this past January.

RELATED: In vitro test maker Ortho Clinical Diagnostics files $1.5B Nasdaq IPO

Ortho will also be able to expand the distribution of its Vitros systems, the self-contained and fully automated analyzers specially designed to process the company’s tests. A single Vitros system can analyze up to 130 antigen tests per hour.

“Our high-volume testing solutions have already been an indispensable asset for hospitals, reference labs, and public health leaders across the country, particularly in rural and underserved communities. We look forward to expanding the availability of these testing solutions to communities in need,” chairman and CEO Chris Smith said in a release.

RELATED: Ortho launches smaller Vitros XT lab hardware for clinical chemistry diagnostics

BARDA first teamed up with Ortho in June 2020, when it awarded the diagnostics manufacturer $678,000 to accelerate the production of its antibody tests. In September 2020, Ortho received another $12.85 million from the government, primarily to speed the development of its antigen test.