Skip to main content

The FDA has shut down a Bill Gates-backed coronavirus testing program

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted, at least temporarily, a Seattle-based at-home coronavirus testing program backed by Bill Gates.

“Please discontinue patient testing and return of diagnostic results to patients until proper authorization is obtained,” the FDA told the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) in a memo, according to The New York Times.

“The FDA has not raised any concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of SCAN’s test, but we have been asked to pause testing until we receive that additional authorization,” according to an update on the SCAN website. There are currently only a couple of at-home coronavirus tests with FDA authorization.

SCAN, which involved a number of institutions, including the University of Washington Medicine and backed by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was sending free test kits to participants.

The goal was to test people both with and without symptoms to get a sense of how widespread COVID-19 is in the Seattle area. The FDA requires any coronavirus tests to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) before being used. Gates announced the program on Tuesday, May 13, and the FDA sent the memo asking SCAN to pause on Wednesday.

Bill Gates
NurPhoto / Getty Images

“As SCAN gathers more test results in the weeks ahead, researchers expect the new data to provide a better sense of the number of infections and serve as one source to help answer other questions, like when physical distancing measures can be relaxed,” Gates wrote on his blog.

The test kits included a nasal swab that participants would then return to one of the institutions involved in the program. They would be able to see the results of their test in a couple of days. SCAN would track results and demographic data — including age, gender, race, and ZIP code — to learn more about which members of the population are most at risk and to assess how social distancing measures are working. The program said it had the capacity to analyze 1,000 tests a day.

Testing for COVID-19 has been slow to get up and running in the United States for a number of reasons. It’s not clear how quickly the SCAN program could receive an EUA and get back to testing.

Editors' Recommendations

Jenny McGrath
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jenny McGrath is a senior writer at Digital Trends covering the intersection of tech and the arts and the environment. Before…
FDA authorizes at-home coronavirus test that uses your spit
Rutgers Spectrum Coronavirus Saliva Test.

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized a second at-home test for the coronavirus -- one that can detect the virus using saliva samples.

The test is made by a Rutgers University laboratory, RUCDR Infinite Biologics, in partnership with Spectrum Solutions and Accurate Diagnostic Labs. The Rutgers test uses a saliva collection device and must be sent back to the lab for testing. You can only receive the test if it’s been ordered through a physician.

Read more
Coronavirus antibody tests aren’t created equal. Here’s what you need to know
Researcher in Lab with Blood Sample Test

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently decided to tighten the regulations on coronavirus antibody tests. These tests are supposed to help people know whether they were previously infected with the virus, but the FDA admitted that many of them aren’t accurate enough to be useful.

Whether you’ve already been administered an antibody test or hope to get one in the future, here’s what you need to know about whether to trust the results.
What are antibodies?
When your body is exposed to an antigen -- or outside substance including viruses, bacteria, and certain chemicals -- it causes the immune system to attack it. As part of the response, white blood cells create a certain kind of protein called antibodies. These proteins can only bind to that specific type of antigen, and they can help the body more quickly respond to the virus or bacteria, making you less likely to get sick from the exact same strain twice.

Read more
FDA approves Roche coronavirus antibody test for emergency use
Coronavirus Testing Labs

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche says it has received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its new test for coronavirus. The company joins several others such as Abbott Laboratories, Becton Dickinson, and DiaSorin in offering antibody tests for the virus.

“Our best scientists have worked 24/7 over the last few weeks and months to develop a highly reliable antibody test to help fight this pandemic,” Thomas Schinecker, CEO Roche Diagnostics, said in a statement.

Read more