Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

PerkinElmer is partnering with Sonora Quest Laboratories on an expansion of COVID-19 testing in Arizona, funded in part by the state of Arizona—which has acknowledged spikes in cases of the virus in late June and resulting growing demand for tests, though new-case numbers have declined in recent days.

The state of Arizona, which announced the program yesterday, and its Department of Health Services have agreed to provide Sonora Quest Laboratories $2 million toward the purchase of new processing equipment, with an additional $6 million to come from Sonora Quest, a joint venture between Banner Health and Quest Diagnostics.

“This partnership will enable Arizona to continue rapidly expanding testing across the state, helping ensure all Arizonans have access to affordable, available testing with speedy turnaround of results,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement.

Sonora Quest said it expects to achieve a testing capacity of up to 35,000 diagnostic tests per day by the end of this month, and up to 60,000 tests per day by the end of August.

To achieve those numbers, Sonora Quest said, it will work round-the-clock to install, validate, and deploy new production lines for the tests, based on PerkinElmer tools and tech that includes:

  • chemagic™ 360 automated nucleic acid purification instruments, designed to provide high yields of ultra-pure nucleic acids suitable for a wide range of downstream applications such as next-generation sequencing (NGS), multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA), genotyping, and PCR.
  • JANUS® G3 Primary Sample Reformatters and Janus® G3 PCR+ Workstations, designed to automate PerkinElmer’s RNA extraction and RT-PCR testing.

Sonora Quest said it is counting on PerkinElmer’s breadth of total workflow solutions to help it rapidly process samples at higher volumes, and ultimately cut down the turnaround time for tests to produce results.

“The goal is to have test results available within 24 hours for anyone tested,” declared David A. Dexter, president and CEO, Sonora Quest Laboratories.

“We are teaming with Sonora Quest to meet their increased testing volume requirements and will continue to build capacity to support broad-based testing globally,” added Masoud Toloue, PhD, vice president and general manager, Diagnostics, PerkinElmer.

The new collaboration between Sonora Quest and PerkinElmer is an expansion of a collaboration launched in May in which EUROIMMUN, a PerkinElmer company, provides tests to support Sonora Quest’s antibody testing.

Sonora Quest said it has performed and reported results of more than 400,000 diagnostic COVID-19 tests. The company began its COVID-19 testing efforts in March by introducing an RT-PCR test, then the following month started offering antibody testing for COVID-19 using blood specimens with a physician order.

In May, Sonora Quest launched a direct-to-consumer offering through its My Lab ReQuest™ solution, giving patients the ability to order the antibody test without a doctor’s order or insurance.

Taking aim at case analysis

The PerkinElmer-Sonora announcement came a day after Arizona was cited by The New York Times as having the most new COVID-19 cases (3,300) per million residents of any place in the world over the week ending July 8. Arizona was also reported to have the nation’s highest daily percentage of positive COVID-19 tests, with more than 25%.

The Times said it based its findings on an analysis of data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, which compiles a widely-cited dashboard of COVID-19 cases and deaths worldwide—with each U.S. state listed side by side with countries of the world.

Ducey responded to the Times’ analysis with a statement to Arizona news outlets by a spokesman that read in part: “There is no question that Arizona is experiencing a significant number of COVID cases, but reports that we are the worst in the world lack context and are misleading and inaccurate.”

Arizona’s Department of Health Services tallied on its data dashboard 112,671 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide as of yesterday—of which nearly two-thirds (65%) were in Maricopa County, which includes four of Arizona’s five most-populated cities: Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, and Scottsdale. According to CSSE, Maricopa has the third largest number of cases of any county in the U.S., behind Los Angeles County with 124,992 cases and Illinois’ Cook County (Chicago) with 94,005 cases.

Arizona’s dashboard shows the day-by-day number of cases has fallen from an all-time high of 5,235 on June 29, to 106 cases as of Wednesday, the latest date for which numbers are available.

Through its partner Quest, Sonora Quest is part of the nation’s largest integrated laboratory system with approximately 3,500 employees serving more than 26,000 patients every day throughout Arizona. Sonora Quest says it commands the largest market share among clinical lab testing providers in Arizona, performing nearly 90 million diagnostic tests per year.

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