How innovations in Covid-19 testing will play a part in this winter season

Thierry Bernard, QIAGEN CEO, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the future of Covid-19 testing, interest and supply of at-home covid testing, and the diagnostic industry amid the pandemic.

Video Transcript

- We are turning our attention now to the progress being made on the COVID front when it comes to testing. QIAGEN is a publicly traded company making lab-based COVID tests. Joining us to discuss this Thierry Bernard, QIAGEN CEO. Also with us is Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Thanks, Karina. Thierry, thank you so much for joining us today-- obviously, a lot to discuss here when it comes to, firstly, COVID-19 tests, but, you know, there's a lot more that QIAGEN does. But let's start on that very hot topic first. Tell us a little bit about what you're doing to sort of prepare for, you know, the economy opening back up, travel opening back up, and, really, a lot of interest in having accessible tests.

THIERRY BERNARD: Good afternoon and thanks for having me. The first thing I would like to insist is that I know we are talking a lot about vaccines these days and vaccines availability. And it's a key point, obviously, in the fight against COVID. But I would like to remind our audience that since the beginning of the pandemic since February of last year, I believe that the diagnostic industry really stepped up to the challenges of this pandemic.

We have all of us multiplying our output of tests available for the public here in the US, but also worldwide, some time by more than 50 times what we were producing the year before. It's an incredible effort in less than six months. And so the situation today is that you have a significant amount of tests available of different nature-- PCR tests, antigen tests-- we talk a lot about home tests those days.

And all those tests are complimentary and really useful in the fight against this virus. It's not about opposing, obviously, those tests against each other. I think now the situation is that we have tests. We have tests of different nature that are becoming easier and easier to use. And that's good in this situation.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Absolutely. I'm so glad you brought up those at-home tests, because, obviously, that's been sort of where a lot of focus is. There's a lot of demand for them. People are looking, scouring the shelves of stores here in the US. Can you compare and contrast what you've seen in terms of the interest and supply as well here in the US versus abroad?

THIERRY BERNARD: Well, I mean, I think in the US here, if you add what we can ship every day in home testing, in antigen testing, and in PCR, I believe we really are at the level of the market demand, I would say. Just a few numbers-- it is estimated that currently, on a daily basis, we are shipping the overall industry 1.5 million PCR tests per day. In addition to that, you have overall probably more than two million antigen tests that are shipped per day as well.

And now, you have an increased supply of own tests available that people can find in their pharmacy, can be prescribed by their doctors. And all those tests, once again, are very complementary to each other. What is extremely also important is that thanks to significant innovation, we are making those tests more and more easier to use.

You have saliva-based tests now where sampling is very straightforward. Another very big innervation of the industry is that now that flu season is going to come probably this winter in the US, you have the ability to test in one single sample multiple potential respiratory pathogen. Obviously, COVID-19, but together with COVID-19, flu A and B, RSV. There are some tests, for example, for our company in simple countries like this, you can test more than 20 pathogens. And this is going to be extremely useful this winter when hospitals will have to segregate between a simple flu and COVID basically to try to stratify the treatment or the best available treatment for the patients.

- And, Mr. Bernard, it seems like every industry has been plagued by supply chain issues. Pfizer saying today there is something like 108, 109 ingredients that goes into its vaccines made 19 different countries. Have you been impacted by similar sort of restrictions on supply chain front?

THIERRY BERNARD: Yes. What I would say, basically, last year, to give you a reference, we are using in diagnostic a lot of biologic raw materials. In a normal situation, some of those biologic, we were ordering kilos per year in a normal, again, situation. Last year because of COVID, we had to order, and find, and validate, obviously, not kilos, but tons of those biological materials. Another example has been plastic.

Diagnostic consumables are still using significant quantities of plastic. We are obviously working to reduce that. But plastic was a significant bottleneck. I would say now, because of the work with the providers. Because of the work also with the public authorities, government, and other governmental association the situation is really under control. Sometimes we still have a hiccup because, for example, some of our providers, especially in Asia, are shutting down factories anytime they have a suspicion of a COVID case. But I would say it's largely under control.

- All right, a fascinating discussion there-- Thierry Bernard, from QIAGEN CEO and Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani, thank you both so much for being here.

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