Roche Holding AG said demand will inevitably outstrip supply for its new coronavirus test, which was granted emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The test is used on Roche's diagnostics systems, known as the cobas 6800 and the cobas 8800, which are widely available across the world. CEO Severin Schwan said the Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical and diagnostics company had initially provided the test for free in January to Chinese authorities.
The test is intended for the qualitative detection of nucleic acids from the virus, or SARS-CoV-2 — which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19 — in swab samples from the pharynx of patients who meet the COVID-19 criteria for testing.
Results from the test are provided in 3.5 hours — the fastest for any available coronavirus test — and can be run on the diagnostic machine at the same time as other assays, such as blood or infectious disease tests.
However, the test can only be used for the duration of its U.S. FDA emergency authorization. Amid a shortage of available tests for the coronavirus — which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11 — Roche said it is able to provide millions of tests and is committed to delivering as many as possible in the most affected areas within the limits of supply.
"We have robust business continuity plans and are doing everything possible to produce as many tests and products as we can during this developing situation," media spokesperson Patrick Barth said in an emailed response to S&P Global Market Intelligence. "However, at the height of any global health emergency, demand will outweigh supply."
Roche would not comment on pricing other than to say its priority is to make the tests available to those who need them.
Shares in Roche were up 4.71% to CHF280.00 at 4:19 p.m. Basel time on March 13.
Commenting on the global spread of the coronavirus, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges wrote in a note that the "end-game" will in part depend on "significant technical and commercial advances by diagnostic and therapeutic companies, who hopefully get some funding and other relief from the endless criticism they have received over the last decade or so."
"No matter what we might hope or believe, COVID-19 is not going away," he said.