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February 28, 2021

Virginia-based COVID-19 test manufacturer to open production facility in Ogden

OGDEN — A molecular diagnostics company based in Virginia announced Thursday that it has established a new large-scale production facility in Ogden that will help it ramp up a polymerase chain reaction-based COVID-19 saliva test and bring hundreds of jobs to northern Utah.

The company, MicroGEM, made the announcement at the same time it announced the acquisition of New Hampshire-based Jump Start Manufacturing LLC. Both locations will manufacture its Spitfire 6830 SARS-CoV-2 tests, which is a test that uses saliva to detect the coronavirus in individuals regardless of whether they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19, according to the company.

The new test was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics program that includes federal funding from a couple of U.S. agencies. The NIH program awarded MicroGEM nearly $41 million last September to fast-track COVID-19 saliva tests that provide results in 15 minutes without the need for a lab or medical personnel on-site.

“The test uses a microfluidic cartridge with the potential for simultaneous detection of multiple pathogens such as influenza,” said officials for the NIH in September.

MicroGEM officials also said Thursday the test was in its final stages of development before it will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. It expects to be able to produce 160,000 tests with the help of the new facilities in Utah and New Hampshire. Its goal is to produce over 4 million tests by April.

“Bringing Jump Start’s leading manufacturing capabilities and expertise under the MicroGEM umbrella and dramatically expanding our production capabilities will ensure that more Americans have greater access to high-quality COVID-19 tests — bringing key tools to help end this devastating pandemic,” said MicroGEM CEO Jeff Chapman, in a statement.

The new facility in Ogden was listed at 69,000 square feet in size. With the addition of it on top of Jump Start in Nashua, New Hampshire, MicroGEM officials said they expected it will bring about 500 new jobs — many of which will be in Utah. It wasn’t immediately clear exactly how many of those jobs will be in Utah. Officials for the company said they expected to begin churning out new tests from the Ogden location during the first quarter of the year.

MicroGEM began accepting applications at the end of last year but has since stopped accepting applicants, according to ZipRecruiter. The job posting listed pays between $16 and $18 an hour.

Thursday’s announcement was lauded by Rep. Blake Moore, who said he was “thrilled” that a company conducting “critical work” regarding rapid COVID-19 testing will open a facility within Utah’s 1st Congressional District.

“MicroGEM will bring hundreds of jobs to the Ogden area, allowing northern Utah to keep answering the call to the pressing challenges presented by the pandemic,” he added, in a statement.

Per its website, MicroGEM, which is based in Charlottesville, Virginia, also creates various medical tests, from its new saliva-centered COVID-19 tests to plant and bacteria tests. It also has global locations in China, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Carter Williams

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