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Ginkgo Bioworks Launches COVID-19 Pooled Classroom Testing Pilot for K-12 Schools

Five-week pilot program available to schools across the country to bring surveillance testing to teachers and students at no cost

BOSTONDec. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today Ginkgo Bioworks, the organism company, announced the launch of its pilot program to bring COVID-19 pooled testing to K-12 classrooms. The pilot is available to K-12 schools across the U.S. at no cost and kicks off January 4, 2021. The program is part of Ginkgo’s COVID-19 testing service, Concentric by Ginkgo, designed to enable low-cost and large-scale testing for schools, businesses, and communities as they look to reopen. Reach out here to sign up for more information.

Classroom pooling has the potential to offer schools and districts population-level data to help make informed public health decisions at a fraction of the cost of individual testing plans. Ginkgo aims to work with hundreds of schools in this pilot to better understand and refine the logistics of scaling classroom pooling across the country. Ginkgo is particularly eager to work with schools that are willing to share insights and feedback on the process as part of a Citizen Science effort to enable greater testing access and empower teachers and their students to take on this critical step in pandemic mitigation firsthand.

As part of the pilot, Ginkgo will provide all materials required to collect and ship samples, in-depth onboarding support, and lab processing power and data return at no cost to participating schools. Schools will support the pilot with management of on-site logistics and communication with students and families. Ginkgo’s early pilot showed that testing is so intuitive and simple that even younger students can successfully self-collect swabs.

“This pilot is a huge step in reopening a critical part of our national ecosystem – schools. Having testing on-campus and readily available to all students and faculty can help build confidence in returning to in-person learning,” said Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks. “Bringing surveillance testing to everyday settings like classrooms will be instrumental in the country’s ongoing COVID-19 response strategy.”

Classroom pooling is a method for surveillance testing for COVID-19 that lets schools easily test many people at once, providing a group result for a whole classroom. Samples are collected from multiple people in the same classroom and mixed together or “pooled” in the classroom and run as a single test in the lab. Pooling significantly reduces the logistical burden of collecting samples in school, dramatically lowering the cost of testing and enabling an increase in the number of people who can be tested with limited capacity. This approach is an important part of the U.S. national pandemic response plan for managing the outbreak on a massive scale.

“The Ginkgo student-administered COVID testing is an easy process for my scholars,” said Matt Condon, principal of Collins Middle School in Salem, MA. “Our scholars learn and can be an active participant in the community fight of the spread of COVID-19.”

To date, Ginkgo has announced $70MM in fundraising to bring next-gen sequencing technology to testing and the availability of millions of rapid antigen tests in partnership with SD Biosensor and Access Bio. To learn more about bringing on-site surveillance testing to schools, download The Rockefeller Foundation’s latest report on scaling testing to 300 million per month for students, teachers, and staff to reopen schools by March 2021.

About Ginkgo Bioworks
Headquartered in Boston, Ginkgo Bioworks uses the most advanced technology on the planet—biology—to grow better products. The company’s cell programming platform is enabling the growth of biotechnology across diverse markets, from food to fragrance to pharmaceuticals. Ginkgo is also actively supporting a number of COVID-19 response efforts, including community testing, epidemiological tracing, vaccine development and therapeutics discovery. For more information, visit www.ginkgobioworks.com.

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