Mobilizing to Meet Testing Needs

In response to COVID-19, the diagnostics industry has been working together in an unprecedented effort to ensure patients and providers have access to testing.


The COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Since late December, our singular focus has been supporting the global response to the outbreak. That has involved a tremendous amount of internal and external alignment to make sure we are delivering for our customers. We went from having a gene sequence to an on-market solution in six weeks, and that’s normally a years-long process.

During this, agile principles have been more critical than ever. First, we had to understand that imperfect is going to be the new perfect. We are making decisions quickly, sometimes with incomplete information, and then rapidly applying what we are learning, iterating and making things better. Consistent, open, honest, quick communication has been imperative, as well. We realized early on that we needed to align our internal communication, so we set up a daily stand-up meeting. We have those to this day. Everyone has the opportunity to bring up important topics and make sure we are moving things forward. 

We want to ensure every patient who needs a test has access a test. By focusing our decision-making framework on the customer and their patients, we have been able to assess how to deploy a limited resource to make sure patients can get the results they need.

Our strategy was to start with the large commercial labs because they had the necessary instruments to run the tests already in place and could serve broad geographic regions. Secondly, we were sending tests to hospital customers and laboratories in the areas that were experiencing large-scale community outbreaks. We had to be very critical of our own internal processes to make sure they were not getting in the way of doing what was right, which was getting these tests to the people who needed them.

Right now, we are concentrating on capacity expansion. We are making a substantial investment globally in our supply chain, building additional manufacturing capacity to increase the production of the tests and instruments on which those tests are performed, as well as hiring more than a thousand people worldwide. We are focused on doubling the installed base from what we had pre-pandemic and increasing the capacity well beyond that on our reagents. 

We’re bringing different types of testing modalities forward for COVID-19, such as a point of care molecular test that can screen not only for COVID-19 but also flu A/B at the same time. We’re also working on rapid antigen tests and antibody tests. No one healthcare company or institution can fight COVID-19 alone. The only way we will achieve the testing capacity that patients need is through the spirit of partnership with other diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies but, more importantly, the healthcare providers, laboratories and government authorities. This is a massive collective effort, and it’s been inspirational to see how healthcare has rallied around this pandemic. 

Randy Pritchard is senior vice president, Marketing, Roche Diagnostics Corp., Indianapolis ( Roche Diagnostics Corp. is an ACHE Premier Corporate Partner.