COVID-19 Testing for U.S. Troops Will Take Place at GW

Laboratory space in Science and Engineering Hall will host testing by health care startup Curative, Inc.

May 6, 2020

GW President Thomas LeBlanc is among visitors to the SEH laboratory that will host Curative's testing apparatus.

GW President Thomas LeBlanc is among visitors to the SEH laboratory that will host Curative's testing apparatus. (William Atkins)

The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health will provide laboratory space in which the health care startup Curative, Inc., will begin testing U.S. military personnel for the COVID-19 virus.

Curative will conduct its testing on the deactivated virus in the Milken Institute SPH Biosafety Level 2 Laboratory (BSL-2) and in additional space provided by GW’s Department of Anthropology. All spaces are located in the GW Science and Engineering Hall, which is equipped with state-of the-art laboratories and equipment.

“We are proud to be a part of this partnership to launch testing of U.S. military personnel for the virus that causes COVID-19,” said GW President Thomas J. LeBlanc. “Our BSL-2 laboratory offers a secure environment in order to process the tests, which will offer valuable information in the fight against this virus.”

Curative will begin processing up to 50,000 tests per day in the BSL-2 lab as part of an agreement it recently signed with the U.S. Air Force, which will deploy test kits to military personnel and train them to perform a simple swab for oral fluids. The test kits sent to the SEH contain a deactivated virus that poses no risk of infection.

Curative’s test kit, authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is a simple-to-use oral swab test that subjects can self-administer. These are considered lower risk than deep nasal swabs, which can deplete scarce personal protective equipment and potentially expose healthcare workers to the virus during sample collection.

The military will send collected samples to the laboratory at the Milken Institute SPH for testing. Results will be available within 24 hours.

The agreement between Curative and the U.S. Air Force includes the cost of building more than 40,000 test kits and training military troops to perform the easy-to-use swabs. If the initial launch shows that testing can be ramped up, Curative will establish eight additional testing locations across the United States to support testing of the U.S. population.

“The United States must expand testing for COVID-19 in order to both contain and ultimately defeat this virus,” said Lynn Goldman, the Michael and Lori Milken Dean of the Milken Institute SPH. “This partnership holds out the promise of widespread testing in the United States, which will provide us with the information we need to keep our troops and the general population safe.”

Curative is a California-based company founded in January to develop tests for sepsis. The startup shifted gears in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has redirected its manpower toward conducting COVID-19 testing.

“We will not make progress toward bringing our economy back online until we have comprehensive testing across the United States, and that means we need easy to administer, highly scalable tests now,” said Curative CEO Fred Turner. “We’re proud to be working with the U.S. military and GW Milken Institute SPH to demonstrate just how rapidly we can scale our oral fluid test. We look forward to partnering with other universities across the country as we bring this test to our global armed forces and beyond.”