Health and Science

Abbott is testing its rapid coronavirus test on asymptomatic people in hopes of expanding FDA authorization

Key Points
  • Abbott Laboratories has trials underway for its rapid coronavirus test to determine whether it could effectively be used on asymptomatic people, CEO Robert Ford told CNBC. 
  • Abbott received emergency approval from the FDA this week, but only for use within seven days of someone showing Covid-19 symptoms. 
  • "We are working on developing data for asymptomatic claims, so we are running our clinical trial, and we'll eventually have data to be able to support that," Ford said on "Power Lunch."
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Abbott Labs CEO on new five dollar, 15 minute coronavirus tests

Abbott Laboratories has trials underway for its rapid coronavirus test to determine whether it could effectively be used on asymptomatic people, CEO Robert Ford told CNBC on Friday.

The company on Wednesday received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its new coronavirus antigen test, which it says sells for $5 and can produce results in 15 minutes, similar to a pregnancy test. 

Abbott's latest product is a notable development as the U.S. attempts to build out Covid-19 testing capacity this fall — but for now, the FDA's authorization for the test is limited in scope. It can be used only within seven days of someone showing coronavirus symptoms and in consultation with a health-care provider, meaning it is not authorized to test presymptomatic people or those without symptoms. 

But Ford said the Illinois-based medical equipment company has hopes to expand beyond the current FDA approval.

"We are working on developing data for asymptomatic claims, so we are running our clinical trial, and we'll eventually have data to be able to support that," Ford said in an interview with CNBC's Meg Tirrell on "Power Lunch."

A spokeswoman for Abbott Labs said the company did not have any additional details on the clinical trials to provide at this time. 

Abbott's offering, called BinaxNOW, has potential to dramatically speed up turnaround time for Covid-19 results in the U.S., which has experienced significant testing challenges throughout the pandemic. The test does not need lab equipment to deliver results, making it portable and suitable for settings such as doctor's offices. 

The U.S. government secured a deal for at least 150 million of Abbott's tests, with hopes to deploy them to nursing homes, schools or other high-risk populations. 

In a CNBC op-ed published Thursday, Ford emphasized that rapid antigen tests such as BinaxNOW are critical because they eliminate the waiting game for results. As Covid-19 cases surged this summer, widespread delays for lab-based testing results were reported, which medical experts say is problematic since people need to know as soon as possible whether they must self-isolate. 

"Rapid tests deliver actionable results quickly so that infected patients can immediately begin self-quarantine. This test, along with others like it, is risk reduction on a societal scale," Ford wrote. 

While Abbott conducts its trial for the test with asymptomatic people, Ford said Friday that Abbott believes it can be distributed and used in a number of beneficial settings. 

"In the meantime, we see it being able to be deployed, because it doesn't requirement an instrument ... through the federal government, through the state governments, through schools, through employers, or even through retail clinics," Ford said. "We think that's a great opportunity to be able to line up this volume." 

Shares of Abbott Labs closed Friday's session at $110.79 apiece but hit an all-time high of $114.20 during the session. The stock is up more than 25% so far in 2020. 

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Former FDA chief Gottlieb on what it would take for more at-home Covid-19 tests