The Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator—a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines that includes the World Health Organization, the European Commission, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—has announced a set of agreements to make affordable, high-quality covid-19 antigen rapid tests available for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

As part of this comprehensive effort, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has executed separate volume guarantee agreements with rapid diagnostic test (RDT) producers Abbott, Chicago, and South Korea-based SD Biosensor. These two arrangements will make available to LMICs 120 million antigen rapid diagnostic tests (Ag RDTs)—priced at a maximum of $5 per unit—over a period of 6 months. These tests provide results in 15 to 30 minutes and will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers to implement molecular tests.

The tests developed by Abbott and SD Biosensor are highly portable, reliable, and easy to administer, making testing possible in near-person, decentralized healthcare settings. Both companies’ tests are faster and cheaper than laboratory-based tests, enabling countries to increase the pace of testing, tracing, and treating people for covid-19 at the point of care particularly in areas with under-resourced health systems. A number of other Ag RDTs are at various stages of development and assessment.

“Abbott is pleased to bring our Panbio Covid-19 rapid antigen test and Sympheos digital solution to people and health authorities in low- and middle-income countries through this innovative partnership,” says Andrea F. Wainer, executive vice president of Abbott’s rapid and molecular diagnostics businesses. “We have long been committed to making sure our life-changing technologies are affordable and accessible, and for decades have been supporting many of these countries with our rapid tests for malaria, HIV, hepatitis, and other deadly infectious diseases.”

To scale up the Ag RDTs, the Global Fund today announced that it has made available an initial $50 million from its Covid-19 Response Mechanism to enable countries to purchase at least 10 million of the new rapid tests for LMICs at the guaranteed price, with the first orders expected to be placed this week through the Global Fund’s pooled procurement mechanism.

Other organizations involved in the milestone agreement include the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, the Global Fund, and Unitaid.

Read more from the World Health Organization.