The world’s largest manufacturer of rapid Covid-19 tests will start manufacturing in the UK, with a factory in Wales starting producing millions of tests a day this summer.
Dan Elliott, chief executive of California-based Innova, told the Financial Times that the company was “making large investments in the UK” to produce the tests for domestic and export use.
“The UK is a key market for us,” he said. “We have been a good partner for the government, the government has been a good partner for us.”
The government has relied heavily on Innova to support its vision for Moonshot testing despite its ambitions to bolster the UK diagnostics sector and the fact that the company has come under intense scrutiny over the accuracy of its devices. .
Innova, which is owned by private equity firm Pasaca Capital, has supplied the UK with more than 1 billion tests produced in China’s Fujian province, as part of contracts worth more than £ 3 billion.
The UK, which is Innova’s largest market for lateral flow devices, has spent over £ 100 million transporting these and other tests from China, based on publicly available contracts.
“We were ahead of the competition in terms of developing these products, but also scaling up en masse,” Elliott said, noting that Pasaca Capital invested tens of millions in the first months of the pandemic, followed by hundreds of millions in the second. Mid 2020..
The company is increasing the production of its tests worldwide and aims to reach 50 million tests per day by the end of the year.
Elliott, who is also the president and senior partner of Pasaca Capital, told the FT that he expected demand for lateral flow testing to remain high for the next three to four years. “When you look at it, the more we travel, the more mix of variants there will be,” he said.
However, Innova’s tests have raised questions in the UK about its accuracy and value. At the height of the pandemic, several studies found that they identified between 40 and 70 percent of the active infection cases detected by the gold standard PCR test.
“There is a lack of understanding of what the lateral flow test is versus a PCR test,” Elliott said. “PCR is a test to determine if you are infected, whereas a LFD [lateral flow device] it tells you if you are contagious. ”
Hundreds of UK-based diagnostic companies have been competing for government contracts and a share of the £ 37 billion that have pledged to the Test and Trace program. But to date, only one, Derby-based SureScreen, has been able to supply UK testing.
The Department of Health and Welfare said the UK had “built the largest testing infrastructure in Europe through partnerships between industry, academia, local government and others.
“The UK is now established as a diagnostic and testing powerhouse, with over 168.4 million tests performed. Collaboration remains a priority and we are enormously grateful to all the manufacturers and suppliers who have offered their assistance in producing the Covid-19 tests. “