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XPrize launches $5 million competition for better COVID-19 tests

A scientist in a lab.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

A new XPrize competition calls on the "world's brightest minds" to develop faster and cheaper COVID-19 tests, with a $5 million reward for the winner.

The competition was launched Tuesday (July 28) by XPrize, the nonprofit organization that runs public competitions to encourage tech innovations that benefit humanity. Dubbed "XPrize Rapid COVID Testing," the competition will last six months, with winners announced in early 2021, according to a statement from XPrize.

The goal of the competition is to develop low-cost and easy-to-use COVID-19 tests that have a fast turnaround time, the statement said. Specifically, tests should have a turnaround time of no more than 12 hours, though some types of tests could provide results in about 15 minutes, the organization said. Tests should cost no more than $15 each, according to Mashable. (Currently, most COVID-19 tests each cost about $100, Mashable reported.) Winning teams should be able to conduct a minimum of 500 tests per week for 60 days, and have the potential to scale to thousands of tests per week down the line, XPrize said.

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"Fast, affordable and accessible testing is crucial to containing the COVID-19 pandemic and safely reopening schools, businesses and other vital institutions around the world," Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPrize, said in the statement. "XPrize Rapid Covid Testing is inspiring the best entrepreneurial and scientific teams to come together to work towards rapid, affordable COVID-19 testing at scale, and ultimately, getting the world up and running again."

Teams can enter one of four categories for their tests: At-home, point-of-care, distributed lab or high-throughput lab, the statement said. Competitors could choose a variety of testing approaches, such as PCR tests, which look for genetic material from the virus, or those that detect viral proteins, known as antigen tests.

There will be five winning teams, each receiving $1 million, with the possibility of more than one team winning for the same testing approach, according to the competition guidelines

For this competition, XPrize is collaborating with OpenCovidScreen, a nonprofit that aims to drive innovation in COVID-19 testing.

XPrize will also work with the COVID Apollo Project, organized by the life-science investment firm RA Capital and others, which will provide $50 million to help scale the best competition ideas and bring them to market.

The deadline to join the competition is Aug. 31, 2020.

Originally published on Live Science.