Houston High School Student Starts Lab Business and Takes COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing on the Road with Mobile Clinical Laboratory
Taft Foley, III, says he got the idea for the mobile lab after waiting on a COVID-19 testing line that went ‘around the entire building’
In a remarkable example of ingenuity and observation, Texas high school student Taft Foley, III, is bringing COVID-19 testing to underserved patients, wherever they may be. He launched a medical lab company, then developed a mobile clinical laboratory which performs rapid antigen tests that can detect the presence of antigen in about 15 minutes.
Foley—who recently became an EMT after graduating from the Texas EMS Academy—designed his mobile medical lab to use Quidel Sofia SARS Antigen FIA tests (nasal swabs). Results are sent to patients by text or e-mail. Foley also works with CLIA-certified Baylor Genetics Laboratories on COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) RT-PCR molecular testing, which gives his customers results in 24 to 48 hours, Forbes reported.
Foley, who is 18-years-old and an Eagle Scout, said he got the idea to launch the mobile COVID-19 testing business after he went for a coronavirus test and had to wait on a line that “wrapped around the entire building,” ABC13 reported. “I said to myself, ‘There needs to be a better way,’” Foley told ABC13.
Forbes reported that Texas Mobile Medical Labs allocates a portion of test fees paid ($100 to $150/test) to help provide tests to the homeless and others who need them, such as veterans and senior citizens.
“The (majority of) tests have been done at businesses who appreciate our mobile capabilities. We arrive and test all employees onsite and have their results back in 15 minutes,” Foley told Forbes.
Other States with Mobile COVID-19 Testing
Texas is not the only state where savvy entrepreneurs like Foley and health agencies are offering mobile COVID-19 testing.
In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Statlab Mobile, a COVID-19 mobile laboratory out of Miami that tests people in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities and other areas of the Sunshine State.
“We believe this will be a game-changer (in long-term care),” DeSantis told the Miami Herald.
“The idea was to bring help to those who are vulnerable, those who can’t otherwise get the kind of medical information they would otherwise love to have,” Bryan Wilson, Statlab Chief Executive Officer, told Patch, which noted the tests are free.
Mobile COVID Testing in Other States
Mobile medical laboratories are being deployed to help handle surges of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Arizona, as well.
In Massachusetts, testing vans operated by American Family Care (AFC), an urgent care provider, started heading out in November to schools and businesses state-wide with a goal to test at least 100 to 150 people daily for COVID-19, according to The Reminder.
The vans are staffed by medical providers who test people with Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card, AFC told The Reminder. The rapid antigen test offers results in 15 minutes.
In September, Dark Daily reported that the US federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded a $760 million contract to Abbott for 150 million rapid antigen tests to aid in detection of COVID-19 as workplaces and schools reopen.
“We’ve had several companies who would like to schedule their employees to be tested on a regular basis. But they also want to be able to make sure that if there is a potential contamination within their businesses, they have a resource to utilize to make sure they can test people right away,” Jim Brennan, Owner/CEO of Medvest, LLC, AFC urgent care’s parent company, told The Reminder.
And in Phoenix, a COVID-19 mobile medical van provides testing to underserved communities. The City of Phoenix, along with staff from the Vincere Cancer Center, use Quidel’s Sofia SARS Antigen FIA test at public and private locations and at family services centers, AZ Central reported.
Clearly, mobile COVID-19 testing labs are here to stay. They serve seniors and vulnerable populations challenged to access clinical laboratory testing at traditional locations and at COVID-19 drive-through sites. And on larger scales, mobile medical laboratories have become key resources to address coronavirus case surges and to conveniently test people at businesses and schools to help identify symptomatic individuals who should be quarantined.
Clinical laboratory managers may be impressed by how quickly mobile testing companies and entrepreneurs form partnerships with public health agencies toward making COVID-19 tests available to all at places where people live and work.
—Donna Marie Pocius