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XPRIZE Names Winners In Rapid COVID Testing Competition

By Diagnostics World Staff

March 16, 2021 | XPRIZE has announced five winning teams in the $6M XPRIZE Rapid Covid Testing competition. Chosen by an independent panel of judges, the winning solutions are radically affordable compared to what is currently available on the market, and are comparable to commercial offerings at measuring sensitivity, specificity, and limit of detection—with a maximum turnaround time of 12 hours from sample to result. 

“Until vaccines are able to be distributed to the vast majority of the global population, affordable and accessible testing capabilities will continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring a safe return to a new normal and fully restart the economy,” said Jeff Huber, XPRIZE Rapid Covid Testing Tech Lead and President & Co-Founder of OpenCovidScreen in an email to Diagnostics World. “Our most vulnerable citizens and populations are still disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and these technological breakthroughs in testing will provide a much needed safety net, especially as we’re beginning to see some states loosen their COVID-19 restrictions at the most critical point of the pandemic.” 

The total prize purse for this competition is $6 million divided among four awards programs. The Grand Prize Awards awarded $2.5 million evenly between top five teams ($500,000 each). The top five teams that successfully completed the deployment phase were each awarded $500,000. The Open Innovation Awards granted $500,000 to the winning Open Innovation teams at the Judging Panel’s discretion. And the Open Innovation Deployment Awards also gave $500,000 to the winning Open Innovation teams that successfully complete the deployment phase.

“We are thrilled to announce the winners of the XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing, which awarded multiple winners with unique testing solutions to help prevent future supply chain problems,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE, in a statement announcing the winners. “We started this journey to ensure communities across the globe have access to fast, affordable, and easy-to-use COVID-19 tests. We are grateful to have the best entrepreneurial and scientific teams on board to help bring their solutions to scale so we can properly reopen schools, businesses, and other vital institutions around the world.”


The winning teams are: 

Reliable LFC, Antigen Testing, Carlsbad, United States

Reliable-LFC's V-CHEK coronavirus diagnostic is an easy-to-use, rapid, point-of-need nasal coronavirus antigen test. The V-CHEK showed 97% specificity and 87% sensitivity in independent studies. The test costs $20 or less and provides results in 10 minutes followed by real-time wireless connections for contact tracing. No lab is needed to process samples, and it requires no subjective reading which reduces chances for false negatives and false positives.

ChromaCode, RNA Testing, Carlsbad, United States

ChromaCode’s HDPCR—high-definition PCR—platform provides a 5x expansion of the analytical capacity of any PCR instrument. The proprietary technology uses digital signal processing, enhanced PCR reagents and cloud-based analytics to significantly increase test capabilities while decreasing costs. The platform leverages the agility, security, and breadth and depth of Amazon Web Services (AWS) services to enable real-time access to the data required to support accurate and affordable COVID-19 testing. 

Mirimus, RNA Testing, Brooklyn, United States

Mirimus has innovated high-volume COVID-19 PCR testing with SalivaClea™, a three-stage surveillance-to-diagnostic reflex testing strategy to monitor and detect infection in communities by testing people in groups called pools. 

La Jolla Institute for Immunology, RNA Testing, La Jolla, United States

The rapid screen requires only a small saliva sample that is subject to a one-step RT-qPCR assay. Sample collection can be do-it-yourself, and the protocol costs $2.

Alveo Technologies, RNA Testing, Alameda, United States

The Alveo be.well COVID-19 Flex Test is a molecular test based on an isothermal nucleic acid amplification process, and has a real-time healthcare data application program to help accelerate time to COVID-19 treatment and surveillance.



Lab-Validated Award Winners 

This prize comes out of the XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance, which was launched in July 2020 to bring researchers, innovators, institutions, corporations, and governments together to share ideas and resources in the fight against the current and future pandemics.

For this particular prize, 700 groups entered diagnostic tests and in December, 20 teams were named finalists. These teams sent their testing kits and protocols to two separate laboratories, for clinical validation. The independent judges, composed of diverse experts in the healthcare and COVID-19 space, reviewed each team’s lab results, testing concepts, and proposals before deciding on the winners. 

In addition to these five winners, four other teams were selected as winners in the Open Innovation Track. These teams’ approaches demonstrated high potential for impactful screening solutions, but could not be categorized as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Isothermal Amplification, Next Generation Sequencing, or Antigen Detection and could not be tested through the competition rounds. 


The four winning teams in the Open Innovation Track are: 

Steradian Technologies, Inc., Houston, United States

Steradian Technologies is developing the RUMI, a 30-second, hand-held diagnostic photonic system to detect COVID-19 with 99% sensitivity. The system is a portable unit that does not need a lab, and can instantaneously share patient disease status for preparedness and protection in our communities. Our groundbreaking technology lies in our photonic amplification process. Unlike current rapid tests, we are not amplifying the genetic or protein material itself, we are amplifying the detection signal that indicates the presence of the pathogen. Once that signal is amplified via photonics (within 30 seconds), we can immediately detect the presence and concentration of the pathogen in a person's breath. This test is accessible to all for just the price of a latte! 

U-smell-it, Guilford, United States

The world is in desperate need of at least 100x more testing capacity to avoid lockdowns and save countless lives. The test needs to be fast, and inexpensive and easy so that anyone can do it anywhere at anytime.  This is a daunting Xprize challenge, but based on multiple international clinical trials, and our new modelling we propose that a humble u-Smell-it™ chemosensory or smell test can be the canary-in-the-COVID-coalmine and alter the trajectory of the pandemic.  Our smell test and app can be used everyday for only 50 cents/test and takes only 45 seconds. Within a month it can be ramped up to over a 300 million tests/day and even scaled to billions. Our novel solution can be printed in every country, and in our ‘buy-one-give-one’ pledge we will directly help people in need. 

Ram Global, Zweibrücken, Germany

Ram Global’s ThEA (Terahertz Express Analyzer) is a qualitative, label-free rapid test for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in human oropharyngeal swab samples with the capability to deliver the result within 3 minutes. ThEA is based on a new optical detection method using metamaterial antennae tuned to resonate at multiple frequency bandwidths, and terahertz (THz) spectroscopy. Since each molecule leaves a specific fingerprint in the THz spectrum by vibrating at a specific THz frequency, it is possible to distinguish between different biological samples, such as viruses. RAM Global is in the final stages of CE approval process for ThEA in EU. 

TeraGroup, Herzliya, Israel

TeraGroup’s BioSafety Technologies subsidiary explores the highly sensitive human-safe electromagnetic Terahertz waves (THz, 300-3,000GHz) to rapidly detect the presence of viruses (via bio-spectral fingerprints) by scanning human breath samples to identify chemical and biological properties. TeraGroup offers the most effective and efficient way to clear non-infected individuals from COVID-19 by introducing its BioSafety Station for rapid clearance, non-invasive, and economic COVID-19 tests, to detect “healthy individuals” in order to boost economic activity.


Teams will work the remainder of the year to accelerate the adoption of their solutions on a massive scale. XPRIZE will oversee the development of a multimedia playbook documenting the testing protocols, plans implemented and lessons learned at deployment sites. XPRIZE is currently inviting communities like schools, offices, factories, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and other communities to apply to be part of this innovative roll-out.

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