Hugo Barra, the Brazilian tech executive who first made his name as the former Vice President of Google, Xiaomi and later Facebook, has a new endeavour. He has recently announced on Twitter that he will be taking up the role of Chief Executive Officer at Detect, a startup that focuses on making COVID-19 testing kits.
Detect started back in March of 2020, just as the pandemic began to take hold. Their main product is an FDA-approved COVID-19 testing kit that can be done at home and gets you results in roughly an hour. Priced at USD50 (~RM211.45) for a single-use test kit, it’s certainly a lot more expensive than your everyday RTK antigen test kits which can be found as low as RM5. However, the Detect test kit offers accuracy similar to a PCR test that typically takes a day to process. In comparison, the RTK antigen tests only work best when your viral load is at its highest.
It works by looking for and identifying the COVID-19 virus’ RNA genetic material. The Detect test then amplifies any genetic material found, making it much easier to identify a possible positive case at the early and tail-end stages of infection, rather than only during your most infectious period. Detect claims a 97.3% accuracy rate and has a 90.9% sensitivity score. They also say that they have correctly identified negative samples 100% of the time during their clinical tests.
To use the Detect test kit, you simply need to get a nasal swab sample from yourself and put in into a tube consisting of chemicals that can test for COVID-19. You then need to put the tube into a Detect Hub which takes about an hour to process your results. The Detect Hub will need to be purchased too by the way, and it’ll cost you USD39 (~RM164.89). However, once you have one, you can continue to reuse the Detect Hub with further Detect test kits for multiple tests.
As for how Hugo Barra got involved with Detect, well he’s actually been with Detect for awhile now as an adviser. Previously, Barra had left Xiaomi in 2017 to join Facebook as its Vice President of VR, and spearheaded its Oculus VR team. However, in May of this year, he updated his Facebook with a status informing that he’s ending his time at Facebook Reality Labs to venture into the healthcare technology space; we now know his plan with the news that he’s the new Detect CEO.
Detect test kits have just launched in the US for now, and production numbers estimate roughly hundreds of thousands of test kits for the first couple of months. Barra though says that monthly production capacity is set to rise into the millions soon enough. There’s no word on if they’re expanding Detect to ship worldwide yet though, but hope is that they will seeing as the Detect test kit has the potential to test more people faster and more accurate than ever before.