Genomics startup Helix receives $33 million in NIH funding to scale COVID-19 testing

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is revealing the first beneficiaries of its Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program, and San Mateo-based Helix is on the receiving end of $33 million in federal funding as a result. Helix is a health tech startup founded in 2015 that focuses on insights derived from personal genomics, but the company has also developed a COVID-19 test that detects the presence of SARS-CoV-2 using RT-PCR methods.

The funding will be used to support Helix’s efforts to scale its COVID-19 testing efforts, with the aim of achieving a rate of 100,000 tests per day by this fall, and then extending the throughput capacity even further after that. Helix’s test got FDA Emergency Use Approval (EUA) earlier this month, and has since been available nationally across the U.S., promising “next day” results.

Helix has also filed for an EUA for a second type of test, an NGS test that offers higher throughput for more testing volume, as well as increased sensitivity toward actually detecting the presence of the virus to avoid false negatives. This test, if approved, will be key to helping Helix achieve that much greater scale of testing capability that is the ultimate aim of the RADx program.

That second test system currently seeking approval would be able to process as many as 25,000 tests per day, and it uses a different method that would also help reduce the strain on the supply chain.