Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) has announced a partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health to accelerate testing for the virus that causes COVID-19. Lilly says it will use its research laboratories to analyze samples taken at Hoosier healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and emergency rooms. Chief Executive Officer David Ricks says the effort should expand the state’s ability to conduct testing and receive results for people who believe they may have the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a timely manner.
Lilly Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky joined Ricks and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box on a media conference call and spoke about the effort.
“Our scientists have been working day and night for several weeks to implement and validate the testing approach we announce today,” said Skovronsky. “We’ve been challenged by shortages of a number of key reagents required in testing but for the most part, we’ve worked around these shortages either by finding alternatives or in some cases, producing our own reagents. Our lab meets all the required certifications to conduct testing and we’re optimistic in our ability to help accelerate testing in Indiana.”
In addition to the testing of samples collected at healthcare facilities, Lilly is piloting a drive-thru testing system that may be able to test patients outside of a healthcare facilities to help avoid further spreading of the virus.
“While technically challenging, we believe this is possible assuming the continued flow of critical supplies,” said Skovronsky. “We’re currently working through details but we also want to make sure we provide adequate testing capacity to backstop urgent needs at our local hospitals first. That is our first priority.”
Skovronsky says testing has already begun and once everything is fully operational, the labs could have the capacity to conduct more than 1,000 tests per day as long as supplies are available. He says the partnership with the ISDH has been critical to the implementation of the accelerated testing effort.
“At the State Department of Health, we started partnering with Lilly from the early stages to tap into the capabilities of this innovative Indiana company,” Box said in a news release. “We know the magnitude of the impact that advances by Lilly can have on how we diagnose and treat Hoosiers and people worldwide, and we’re grateful for Lilly’s commitment to help accelerate solutions.”
The announcement of the partnership comes less than a week after Lilly detailed a partnership with Canada-based AbCellera to co-develop antibody products to treat and prevent COVID-19. The companies are partnering with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, to find the antibodies most effective in neutralizing the virus.
Lilly says it will not accept money from government agencies, hospitals, insurance companies or patients for conducting or analyzing the tests. Ricks adds the testing will be completely free.
“This partnership between the Indiana State Department of Health and Eli Lilly and Company will be transformational in our efforts to accelerate testing for COVID-19,” Governor Eric Holcomb said in a statement. “We are grateful for Lilly’s dedication to the health and safety of Hoosiers as we continue to put all of our focus into slowing the spread.”
Another Indianapolis company, Roche Diagnostics, has developed test kits for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the first 400,000 of which are currently being shipped to labs throughout the country. The company says it plans to ship an additional 400,000 kits per week after that.
Skovronsky says the effort has been an ongoing process.