File photo courtesy of General Atomics.
An assay card for General Atomics’ Matchbox system, with a penny to show its size.

File photo courtesy of General Atomics. An assay card for General Atomics’ Matchbox system, with a penny to show its size.

General Atomics is advancing further into the medical device market, announcing it is at work on technology to detect COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.

The business said in early April that it has a working prototype of the product it calls Matchbox. It plans to speed up that development effort.

General Atomics’ aim is to create a device that can test and provide a diagnosis at the point of care in 30 to 60 minutes. The goal is to detect a wide range of respiratory infections, including COVID-19 and influenza A and B, using a single sample of a patient’s blood, urine or mucus.

The business describes Matchbox as a molecular diagnostic platform that will use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology.

“We are working diligently to expedite the transition from a working prototype to an FDA-cleared production platform including the necessary approvals to bring Matchbox to market,” said Scott Forney, president of General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Systems business unit, in a statement released by the company.

“Matchbox has the potential to test across a spectrum of respiratory infection targets. … Determining exactly what the patient has in a single visit and in a single hour has the potential to help significantly expedite patient treatment options and facilitate containment to mitigate potential spread.”

Working on Multiple Fronts

General Atomics’ core businesses are defense and nuclear energy, but the company has not been shy about trying new things.

General Atomics is working to thwart COVID-19 in many ways.

A company affiliate called Diazyme is offering COVID-19 antibody tests which use a patient’s blood sample as a starting point. There are two types of tests. One is a sensitive test run on a chemiluminescence analyzer. The company is working with multiple clinical labs including UC San Diego Medical Center on the sensitive test. The other test, a rapid test, is under development.

GA is also pursuing work to make components for medical equipment, including ventilators. GA said it has tested a mechanized bag valve mask. The business noted it has the facilities to make components in the United States.

In addition, the company is producing face shields using the 3-D printing process. GA has shipped more than 5,000 face shields since late March.

“GA has been delivering solutions in support of public health for decades, and with so many in need during this unprecedented time, we have concentrated our collective efforts to address the current pandemic,” said Neal Blue, GA’s chairman and CEO, in a statement.