By Graeme Kemlo

Brisbane-based Ellume has just been awarded a $300 million AUD contract by the United States (US) government to supply 8.5 million rapid COVID home test kits. Under the deal with the Biden administration, Ellume will also establish a Maryland, US, manufacturing facility capable of supplying half a million rapid COVID test kits a day to the US.

Approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), It is being touted as a game changer that will verify a traveller’s status and also allow almost real time information on the location of infections.

We did setup a time for an interview with their managing director and founder Dr Sean Parsons, but he was overwhelmed with similar requests from Australia and around the world.

The unique design of this $40 device is that you take a nasal sample from children as young as two, and stick it into the device which detects fragments of the virus. It connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone and transmits data via the cloud for analysis. Within 15 minutes, the result is delivered directly and securely to your phone, which retains evidence of your status. It reportedly has 95 per cent accuracy. From a health department point of view, it also rapidly reports where the infections are.

However, Dr Parsons told media yesterday that the test kits his company produced would all be going to America. Ellume can currently produce 100,000 kits a day in Brisbane, but he said: “The US Government supported us with $30 million in funding late last year to help scale up our Australian manufacturing facility.”

He added that the company would see if production could be ramped up to supply the Australian market.

So, the only questions that remain are: how long has our federal government known about this? (One of Ellume’s major investors is reportedly a Liberal Party donor) and secondly, when will Australia’s governments step up and secure millions of these to allow widespread testing across Australia, particularly to rural and remote residents? Not that I feel COVID-sick, but I’ve got my $40 here.