Biodesix to pivot to coronavirus testing in Boulder lab

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BOULDER — Biodesix Inc. is temporarily switching from its focus on lung cancer testing to bring a COVID-19 virus testing platform to market.

In a press release Friday morning, the Boulder company said it would partner with California-based Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. (NYSE: BIO) to petition the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval for a “Droplet Digital PCR” test, which searches for specific genetic material in nose and throat swabs to diagnose diseases.

Biodesix already uses the droplet digital protocol in its lung cancer tests and would be able to process tests in its Boulder laboratory.

The two companies pointed to two studies in China that showed the digital protocol was less likely to produce a false negative than standard tests in use. However, those studies were not peer-reviewed or given clinical evaluation.

Biodesix and Bio-Rad say they can make the test available as soon as early April, depending on FDA approval, and would immediately begin distribution to health-care systems in Colorado. Once at full capacity, the two companies can produce up to 1,000 tests per day and produce results within three days.

A Biodesix spokeswoman said the company will sell the tests at the Medicare rate of $51 per unit. A federal bill passed this week as part of a larger virus response package bans insurers or hospitals from charging co-pays or other fees for the tests.