State officials said Tuesday they are pursuing a partnership with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to expand COVID-19 testing in Massachusetts.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said plans are underway to establish the research center as a "state reference lab" for COVID-19 testing. This means that the Broad Institute will be able to process samples collected in hospitals and other clinical settings. There are no plans to test patients at the Broad itself.
"If we're successful, the Broad Institute would be able to test almost a thousand kits per day," Sudders said.
She added that she is working to supply the center with COVID-19 test kits from Waltham-based Thermo Fisher Scientific.
In a press release, the Broad Institute noted that while there are still logistical and regulatory hurdles to overcome before testing can begin, they expect to be up and running by early next week. The press release also noted that they should be able to quickly increase the capacity beyond 1,000 tests each day.
The Broad Institute evolved out of MIT and Harvard's work on the Human Genome Project, the massive scientific and computational effort to map the human genetic code. Today, the Broad remains one of the top biomedical research centers in the country, with one of the largest DNA sequencing facilities in the world.
The state began discussions about testing with the Broad and its hospital partners last week, according to the press release. Since then, Broad scientists have been working to adapt the Institute's highly automated clinical testing facility to accurately perform the existing COVID-19 test on a large scale.
Expanding test capacity remains a priority for the state, Sudders said.