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Big Ten Conference announces partnerships to provide surveillance, antigen testing during football season

September 30, 2020
<p>Spartan Stadium photographed on Aug. 23, 2019. </p>

Spartan Stadium photographed on Aug. 23, 2019.

On Wednesday evening, the Big Ten conference announced its partnership with Biodesix Inc., a diagnostic company focused on lung disease, and Quidel Corp., the manufacturer of an FDA-authorized rapid antigen test, the conference announced in a release.

The decision came shortly after the conference outlined its medical safety plan and eight-game, conference-only football schedule. The purpose of the partnership, according to the release, is to provide comprehensive surveillance testing for COVID-19 for all student-athletes and staff.

“The partnership with Biodesix and Quidel is an important step toward achieving our mission of keeping our student-athletes, and the communities that support them, healthy and safe,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in the release. “The data we are scheduled to collect, and the research component of this partnership, will provide major contributions to all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) among wider communities.”

According to the release, the partnership is to provide testing that will alert athletic programs at Big Ten institutions who need to be tested due to concerns that someone could have contracted COVID-19.

“Along with its medical and scientific capabilities as a certified laboratory, Biodesix is committed to helping the Big Ten meet the testing requirements and reporting protocols established by the medical subcommittee and adopted by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors,” Dr. Jim Borchers, head team physician at Ohio State University and co-chair of the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee said in the release. 

“Quidel’s rapid antigen testing technology represents the ability to perform COVID-19 surveillance testing on a large scale with prompt results,” Borchers said.

“The Return to Competition testing” as its called in the release, started today, Sept. 30. As a now-partner, administrators from Biodesix will be at each of the 14 Big Ten campuses to collect samples and assume surveillance testing responsibilities.

All Big Ten student-athletes and personnel involved in close contact with sports competitions will be administered the rapid antigen surveillance tests prior to every practice and game.

“We are pleased to be partnering with the Big Ten to provide daily testing for its student-athletes, while also expanding the largest research initiative into asymptomatic individuals,” Douglas Bryant, president and CEO of Quidel Corp. said in the statement.

Presumptively positive results of antigen testing for Big Ten student-athletes and others included in the team testing protocols will be referred to their member institution’s health staff for confirmatory PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing, the release said.

Each university’s Chief Infection Officer will report confirmed positive cases to the medical subcommittee of the Big Ten Conference Return to Competition Task Force. Then, decisions to alter or postpone practice or competition will be based on tests and population positivity rates of each institution's teams. 

Michigan State football has begun practice, as have the rest of the 13 Big Ten football programs in preparation for the opening weekend of Oct. 23 and 24 when the Big Ten conference will kick off its football season.

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