What makes FloodLAMP testing unique? What is FloodLAMP's innovation?
FloodLAMP’s innovation is combining currently available technology into a highly efficient, integrated infectious disease screening program that can scale—and doing so in a truly open way.
New technologies have enormous potential, but it’s not clear if any will be ready in 2020. Both well-funded startups and large diagnostics companies will surely bring online significant additional testing capacity, but most of that will be on closed systems or in closed labs, and will be at the highest price the market will bear. Some new options will have impactful tradeoffs, such as antigen tests with LOD’s above the threshold for infectiousness. Incentives have not been properly set to encourage the development of a program that any basic lab can affordably bring up and run at significant scale. FloodLAMP is building upon the foundational work of others to combine a sensitive, super cheap, flexible and molecular assay with streamlined sample collection. We are openly sharing not just our protocols but also the wraparound processes for a dedicated screening program that is designed to be accessible for all other labs. At the same time, we are soliciting help in best practices under a structure where that knowledge is shared and disseminated, not just used in a limited, closed offering. In short, we’re bringing open source to biotech, helping to create the Linux of infectious disease screening. We’re building on the current important open efforts (such as JOGL, gLAMP, shared protocol websites like protocols.io) and implementing an integrated screening program to address the global COVID-19 crisis.
To reach scale. Sample pooling (mixing individual samples together and testing them all at once) greatly increases the capacity of a lab and decreases the cost. Many populations have very low levels of actively infectious people and testing them individually is a huge waste of resources. China has used 10-to-1 sample pooling very effectively to screen millions of people quickly, and so can we.
Doesn’t pooling only work if the disease prevalence is low? And since the prevalence is still high in most of the US/California, is pooling a false hope?
Yes and no. Yes, pool levels must be matched to prevalence, and above about 1% (or a few %), pooling basically isn’t worth the trouble. But geographic populations consist of many demographics that have widely different %’s of currently infectious people. Having an efficient screening capability allows us to save our individual clinical diagnostic testing for both the screening reflexes and high prevalence populations. Being able to screen large populations frequently and cost effectively, to monitor for new infections among interacting groups, is a key capability we are missing in our fight against COVID. Building out this mass screening capability using sample pooling can effectively end the COVID-19 crisis. As a society, we should be all-hands-on-deck pursuing this.