Bloom Energy in San Jose builds new lab to expand COVID-19 testing

"This economy simply cannot wait for months to get back, so we think it's really essential."

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Saturday, December 12, 2020
Bloom Energy in SJ builds new COVID-19 lab
Bloom Energy in San Jose builds a new lab to expand COVID-19 vaccine testing to help companies and schools with a safe reopening.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Silicon Valley energy company is expanding COVID test lab capacity in hopes it could speed up the return of businesses and schools to normal. Health is a vital part of Building A Better Bay Area.

This $1.5 million laboratory represents a unique private-public partnership to add virus testing capability in the Bay Area.

"This economy simply cannot wait for months to get back, so we think it's really essential," said KR Sridhar, Bloom Energy CEO.

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Even with the promise of vaccines, Bloom Energy believes this lab will accelerate the ability for Bay Area companies, schools and universities to return to normal. Using a system developed by the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, it can process 10,000 tests per day with same-day results, using a proprietary saliva test.

"Every private citizen, every private organization needs to step in and say, how can I help?" said Sridhar.

The University of Illinois system has been doing routine testing on its campus of 50,000 with one million tests performed.

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"I like to think of crushing this virus," said Dr. Timothy Killeen, president of the University of Illinois System. "You don't just watch it and monitor it. But you have to step in to make sure that it doesn't transmit, and that's when minutes count."

Bloom Energy is inviting CEO's across the region to take advantage of its lab. The projected cost is $35 per test. El Camino Health is a partner, bringing its clinical and diagnostic skills to the effort.

"The earlier you can identify a positive case, the earlier you can intervene and quarantine and stop the spread of the virus," said Dan Woods, CEO of El Camino Health.

For every six tests performed, one will be donated to Gardner Health Services, which is trying to reduce double-digit infection rates in east San Jose. Each Wednesday it has the capacity to test 1,000 patients, but it could only do 743 this week due to limited county lab capacity. It turned away 96 patients whose unknown status could spread COVID-19.

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Another company, Boston based Ginkgo Bioworks, is also building a lab. Its new Emeryville facility, scheduled to be operational by the end of January, will add testing capacity of 10,000 tests per day.

"Having a more local facility to process the collected samples in the area gives us a quicker turnaround time," said Ena Cratsenburg, chief business officer at Ginkgo Bioworks.

Bloom Energy has more details for employers and schools by clicking here.

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