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Opentrons CEO Jon Brennan-Bada speaks on lab automation in the age of COVID-19 and beyond
Hannah DeTavis
One of Opentrons' lab automation products, the OT-2, acts as a personal pipetting robot
One of Opentrons’ lab automation products, the OT-2, acts as a personal pipetting robot. Source: Opentrons

Forbes recently interviewed Jon Brennan-Badal, the CEO of lab automation company Opentrons (HAX 05), about his company’s role in effective, accelerated COVID-19 testing and healthcare at large.

Opentrons has taken on a major role in COVID-19 detection since the early days of the pandemic. The startup was even the first to detect the Omicron variant of the virus in New York. With its cutting-edge platform integrating robotics, software, assay development, and lab operations, Opentrons has attracted big-name investors, including Softbank.

Working together with scientists from NYU Langone, Opentrons formed the Pandemic Response Lab (PRL) to support New York City’s public health response.

“PRL’s proprietary innovations have enabled it to scale diagnostics with a rapid turnaround time at a fraction of the cost and significantly expand access to care,” explained Brennan-Badal. “Since its inception in 2020, PRL has scaled its pipeline and operational efficiency to new heights. Its New York City lab alone has a daily test capacity of 58,000 tests with most results delivered in under 24 hours. The extraordinary processing volume and turnaround time are one of the fundamental reasons PRL has become the city’s primary Covid-19 testing partner.”

To date, PRL has provided 80 percent of New York state’s sequencing and two percent of the world’s sequencing. This poised PRL to quickly identify concerning variants like Beta and Omicron and report this information to government and local officials to mobilize public health efforts. Opentrons is not a one-trick pony, however.

“With a successful foundation in place, PRL is looking to offer clinical laboratory testing services for a variety of diseases and conditions. In March, we launched our concise respiratory panel, which simultaneously tests four viruses: SARS-CoV-2, influenza A and B, and respiratory syncytial virus, at a cost lower than many Covid-19-only PCR tests,” he said. “We will soon be launching test panels for other infectious disease areas, as well as routine health tests.” Brennan-Badal noted.