How Atlanta startup Apollo Medco’s COVID testing system could safely reopen businesses

Atlanta startup Apollo Medco says it has the key to opening businesses, schools and all in-person events safely during the pandemic — the COVID CleanPass.  

Apollo Medco, which launched during the pandemic, has created a machine that CEO Ken Dunwoody says can read results of various brands of rapid COVID-19 tests. Those results then automatically upload to the tested person’s account, which they can access on their phone within half an hour of taking the test. 

Dunwoody calls it the COVID CleanPass, or a person’s negative COVID-19 test result, which could be used in a daily work environment or for large, in-person events such as concerts or conferences. 

“If you decide to go to the hottest bar in Atlanta, and they’re requiring tests, you can say, ‘Let me in, I’ve got my CleanPass,’” Dunwoody said. “Then they would scan it and let you in. There’s so many applications.” 

The Apollo Medco COVID CleanPass system along with the company’s COVID-19 rapid test are in pre-clinical trials, Dunwoody said. The company aims to apply for an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year. 

The rapid test is also known as a lateral flow antigen test, which is a similar process to how an at-home pregnancy test works. Those types of COVID-19 tests have faced criticism for not being as accurate as lab tests but continue to have widespread use because of the speed of its results. 

The machine can read and deliver rapid test results to about 200 people every hour, Dunwoody said. That volume of testing means businesses could test employees every morning before they come to work, which could keep operations open while making people feel safe.  

The CleanPass system includes an iPad, small printer, test-reading machine and 10-hour battery in a portable case so people can easily bring and set up the system anywhere. The CleanPass system can read testing kits from Quidel, BD and Abbott as well as the company’s own rapid COVID-19 tests. 

By having a machines read the tests, Dunwoody said it removes the possibility of human error in entering results and makes the process quicker. For the system to work most efficiently, one person would take test swabs and another person would wait the 15 minutes for the test to process, then enter it into the CleanPass machine.  

The system will be available to purchase for about $25,000, Dunwoody said. There will be about a $5 fee per test read on the system and a $5,000 monthly subscription to the cloud software that stores the results. People who are getting tested will be able to access the software for free after their test.  

Dunwoody, a Georgia Tech alum with 35 years of experience in telecommunications, self-funded the venture with his partner Clas Sivertsen, a computer engineer in Taiwan who’s helped with design. They started working on this technology over the spring and launched the company in October.  

“We would work 18 hours days when we first started,” Dunwoody said. “I’m obsessed with trying to solve this because people are suffering.”

With talks of a vaccine on the way, Dunwoody said the CleanPass system will complement the lengthy process it may take to distribute it to everyone. 

“The chances of everyone being immunized between now and the end of next year is probably slim to none,” Dunwoody said. “Do we just sit and wait for that to happen, or do we do something, test people, and open up businesses?” 

Once the pandemic is over, Dunwoody said the machine could be outfitted for future outbreaks or for other lateral flow antigen tests.

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