Genetics company adds COVID-19 testing to services

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Kevin MacDonald

A company that provides genetic testing to personalize wellness now offers a different kind of testing, but with the same objective in mind.

As businesses reopen and schools prepare for the return of teachers and students, testing for COVID-19 constitutes an important effort in slowing the spread of the disease, said Kevin MacDonald, founder and managing director of Advanced Genomic Solutions (AGS).

Kellie Caldwell Straub, a vice president at AGS who works out of Grand Junction, said the company can help businesses, schools and organizations in Western Colorado that need testing.

MacDonald said AGS offers a polymerase chain reaction test approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that analyzes samples collected with nasal swaps for the presence of the COVID-19 virus. Results are available within 48 hours and more than 96 percent accurate, he said. The Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention recommends the test.

AGS also offers a test for the presence of antibodies produced by a COVID-19 infection. While the test is 99 percent accurate, MacDonald said it’s not yet known if someone with antibodies is no longer infectious to other people or if antibodies offer protection from a subsequent infection. Moreover, the antibody test requires a blood draw.

“We believe the first step to re-opening schools or companies is to test all students or employees to know who has the virus and who might be able to spread the virus to others even if they themselves have no symptoms,”  he said.

Since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, AGS has developed capacity to offer up to 6,000 nasal swab tests a day, MacDonald said.

AGS works with schools, businesses and organizations to schedule on-site testing, usually as a drive-through event. AGS provides staff to collect samples.

The company also works through a practitioner and provider program with health and wellness professionals to offer in-office testing of their patients.

Positive test results are returned to school administers or employers for review and action. Those who test positive should be quarantined or seek medical help.  They can return to school or work once subsequent tests are negative.

MacDonald said it’s most important to test and identify those who have the virus and can infect others. Most people who’re infected by COVID-19 don’t demonstrate symptoms, but still could spread the disease to others who could face serious health consequences. Older people and those with diabetes or cardiovascular disease have decreased immunity responses to COVID-19.

Schools planning to bring teachers and students back should schedule testing seven days before school reopens to identify who are infected, he said.

MacDonald said an antigen test could be developed within a year to offer COVID-19 testing similar to home pregnancy tests. There’s also the potential a vaccine could be developed.

Until then, nasal swap tests offer one of the most efficient means to detect the disease and take measures to slow it’s spread, he said.

AGS brings to the testing process nearly a decade of experience, he said.

AGS also offers health and wellness tests to build client immunity systems by empowering clients to make healthier lifestyle choice based on their unique genes. AGS test results enable people to take a more proactive approach to tailoring diet, exercise and supplements to optimize their immunity systems based of their metabolisms.

AGS has provided genetic testing to many Fortune 100 companies for more than years, but also works with health care providers and individuals.

Whether testing to promote building immunity or detect COVID-19, MacDonald and Straub said the pivot to COVID-19 testing offers useful tools in a time of need.

For information about AGS and COVID-19 testing, contact Kellie Caldwell Straub at (833) 874-3637 or kellie@ags-health.com or log on to www.ags-health.com.