Verily, the life sciences arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, on Tuesday said it has set up its own coronavirus testing lab aimed at getting people faster results.
The lab, located on the company’s campus in South San Francisco, California, was built to run “several thousand” tests per day, Verily said. The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases have spiked, causing labs to return results at a slower clip. Facilities that used to take two to three days are now taking a week or longer.
“When the pandemic hit, it became clear that we needed to rapidly establish a lab and to receive California state licensure and CLIA certification, which we have done,” said Verily Head of Pathology Deb Hanks, referring to the state’s standards for clinical labs. “We’ve established this lab to provide a focused specialty service with rapid turnaround time.”
One way Verily says it’s increasing testing capacity is by looking into “pooled” testing, or combining respiratory samples from several people and conducting one lab test on the sample set. The Verily facility will focus primarily on customers of the company’s Healthy at Work program, aimed at helping businesses and schools get people back to offices or campus.
Verily’s efforts were the source of drama and confusion earlier during the pandemic, after President Donald Trump announced the federal government was working with Google on a coronavirus testing website. The tool, which was announced unexpectedly by the president, turned out to be a website that allows people to take a screener survey to see if they should go to testing stations for COVID-19.
The screening website has drawn privacy scrutiny from lawmakers. In order to take the online screener, the site requires people to sign in using a Google account. Democratic senators have pressed Verily about the issue, but in April, Verily indicated it would keep the requirement for security and authentication reasons.