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Mobilizing Color’s infrastructure in response to the COVID-19 crisis

Othman Laraki

Color COVID-19 Lab

As the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis became clear, we mobilized Color to contribute our clinical testing infrastructure and services to support the emergency response. Three weeks ago, Color began repurposing services that we have used to scale population genetics to increase access to COVID-19 testing in three areas, which we hope can help communities within and beyond the Bay Area. 

Everything we are doing relating to COVID-19 is a social contribution. We will subsidize what we can. We will seek philanthropic contributions to cover things we can’t subsidize. And everything that we can neither cover ourselves nor through others’ generosity will be done at cost. Please feel free to reach out to us at if we can help. 

Integrated Distributed Testing for Front-Line Workers

We have repurposed Color’s enterprise workforce service to offer a simple, integrated solution that enables public health officials or essential businesses to rapidly deploy a testing service for their frontline workforces. The public servants, union workers, and essential personnel across the country are among the most at-risk populations today, so providing highly accessible testing can help protect them and their families while they serve our communities. 

Color works with a local government or employer to coordinate an onsite clinical staff to administer the tests and Color takes care of everything else: supplying and provisioning sample collection kits, tools to efficiently offer tests, transport and logistics to Color’s or a partner’s lab, returning results to patients and their physicians, as well as public health workflows, including case management, results reporting to health authorities, triage and contact tracing. This program is repurposed from our years of working with over 100 employers – from large tech companies to unions like the Teamsters – to make clinical testing highly available, simple to access, and affordable.

Post-test Logistics, Case Management and Contact Tracing

We are re-tooling the system that we use to return clinical genetics results to large populations to deliver COVID-19 results back to patients and support downstream public health workflows based on testing from Color or other labs in a HIPAA-compliant manner. 

Other labs and public health officials have described the challenges of offering a consistent post-test follow-up. In response, we are opening our post-test platform to other COVID-19 testing labs for follow-on care, including: 

– Patient test result (positive / negative)
– Recommended personal guidelines or instructions (if deviating from national standards)
– Follow up demographic questionnaire 
– Contact tracing questionnaire
– Exposed contact outreach

A laboratory, health system or government service simply provides Color with a daily manifest data file, providing patient identifiers, test results, and the desired workflow at the patient or institutional level. 

High-Capacity COVID-19 Testing Infrastructure

In order to successfully manage the COVID-19 crisis, we will need to deliver hundreds or thousands or even millions of tests per day across the U.S., in addition to point-of-care testing. To achieve that scale, we believe the country needs a number of high-throughput, high-capacity labs as a national backbone for testing and surveillance.

We are building a dedicated lab that is designed to provide high-throughput testing capabilities for COVID-19 and other similar diseases. We will open-source this model to freely share the designs and protocols of our lab to facilitate the scaleup of labs beyond Color’s. We are also partnering with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Weill Cornell Medicine in the design and implementation of a high-capacity lab process and alternative testing technologies.

Thanks to the backing of philanthropic donations from several institutions and individual donors, the Color COVID-19 lab is going live in the coming week. Our goal is testing capacity at Color of 10,000 tests per day over the coming weeks and returning results back to physicians within 24 hours of receiving samples at our lab. Moreover, we have prioritized automation and technologies with alternative supply chains to not add to the burden of an already-stressed system. As the crisis abates and we come off its peak, we want to cost-effectively deliver testing at the volume necessary for a test, trace and isolate surveillance model. 

Please feel free to reach out to us at To learn more, check out our overview page and read our press release.

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