Sonora Quest brings COVID-19 testing to Arizona schools
Arizona’s leading diagnostic testing lab, Sonora Quest Laboratories, is teaming up with Ginkgo Bioworks, Inc. (“Ginkgo”), the organism company, a Boston-based biotechnology firm committed to supporting the fight against COVID-19, to provide pooled COVID-19 testing to K-12 school districts throughout Arizona.
Sonora Quest and Concentric by Ginkgo will be offering schools throughout Arizona the opportunity to provide molecular—also known as PCR—COVID-19 testing via pooling.
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An interested school will sign up for testing through Ginkgo’s online portal. Parents will have the opportunity to consent and opt into allowing their students to be tested at such a school. Using COVID-19 swab tests provided by Ginkgo, each pod of consented people or the classroom’s collected samples will be combined—up to 25 at a time—in order to pool test the samples. Samples are pooled together by placing all of the nasal swabs in one sample tube. Sonora Quest will then receive the pooled samples and process them via COVID-19 PCR testing. Results for the pooled sample will be reported back to the school by Ginkgo. While schools may choose to test different subpopulations (like teachers, other staff, or student athletes) at different rates, most schools engaging in COVID-19 testing choose to test all students on a weekly basis.
“By using this method, schools are able to access COVID-19 testing for every student, every week, all at a low cost,” said Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks. “We have implemented similar testing throughout the U.S., so we know our system combined with Sonora Quest’s best-in-class test processing will support Arizona’s schools with the tools they need for data-driven decision making.”
If a pooled sample produces a positive result, schools will be able to make informed decisions about specific classrooms instead of making decisions that affect the entire school. For example, the school could decide to have students in a positive classroom move to online learning for an appropriate quarantine and individual students would be able to access free COVID-19 diagnostic testing through one of Sonora Quest’s COVID-19 testing sites.
“Decision makers need accurate, real-time information to open our schools safely and keep them open—which is what this testing method provides,” said Dave Dexter, the president and CEO of Sonora Quest Laboratories. “This partnership with Concentric by Ginkgo will let parents sleep a little easier, knowing that they don’t have to sacrifice their children’s education in order to keep their family healthy and safe.”
Sonora Quest’s PCR diagnostic testing can indicate a positive COVID-19 test result even for currently known variants of COVID-19. Unlike rapid antigen testing, PCR test samples can be further tested to determine the presence of a COVID-19 variant and type of variant.
“As variants continue to grow and an estimated two-thirds of people infected show no symptoms, we can’t let up on testing,” said Arizona State University professor and Rockefeller Foundation advisor Mara Aspinall. “This teamwork, finding the most cost-effective way to provide accurate and timely information to parents and our schools is exactly what we need to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Preparation for this testing option for K-12 schools is in the final planning stages and is anticipated to be ready for launch in early April. The recently announced $10 billion federal funding for COVID-19 testing in public schools may help Arizona’s schools to access this vital testing. For additional information for parents and schools or to sign a school up to participate in the program, learn more at https://concentricbyginkgo.com/.