16 Minutes on the News #39: A Faster, Cheaper Test — Will It Really Democratize Coronavirus Testing?

In this episode of 16 Minutes, we cover the recent news around the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization approval of Abbott Lab’s latest COVID-19 test, which takes 15 minutes and will cost $5. At that speed and price point — as well as the fact that it doesn’t require lab equipment at point of care — it should definitely increase testing capacity, making it a potential “game changer” in this pandemic… But does it truly democratize coronavirus testing (in an available-to-everyone-everywhere way)? How is and isn’t it like a pregnancy test, and when or how would we be able to administer it everywhere and by anyone?

To help tease apart what’s hype/ what’s real — as is the premise of this show — a16z bio general partner Vineeta Agarwala breaks it all down with host Sonal Chokshi in ~18 minutes. The conversation provides an overview of RT-PCR vs. antigen test types (and differences between “rapid” versions of both); digs into what the data does and doesn’t tell us here; and explains key concepts that everyone needs to know, including the “positive predictive value“, which has implications for widespread detection and testing. Agarwala (who is also a practicing physician) also briefly touches on practical considerations from the clinical perspective… what do we really need when the winter flu season hits?

articles cited/ related reading

“Medicine’s Uncomfortable Relationship with Math: Calculating Positive Predictive Value”, by Arjun Manrai, Gaurav Bhatia, Judith Strymish, et al, in JAMA Internal Medicine, June 2014
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1861033

 

image: Abbott

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