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Kansas City’s MRIGlobal Wins $2 Million Defense Contract For Mobile Lab COVID-19 Testing

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Peggy Lowe
/
KCUR 89.3
Dean Gray, director of MRIGlobal’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Division, in his office standing by different models of the company’s mobile medical labs.

MRIGlobal’s latest mobile medical lab, dubbed Athena, contains state-of-the art diagnostic testing equipment which the U.S. Army will use for rapid coronavirus testing.

MRIGlobal, a Kansas City research institute, will ship three mobile medical labs to the U.S. Army to conduct rapid coronavirus testing and processing. The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded the company a $2 million contract for labs, according to a government news release.

MRIGlobal has been designing, equipping and staffing these mobile units around the world for the last 15 years, but they’d never considered using them in the U.S., said Dean Gray, director of MRIGlobal’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Division.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit here, Gray said, they wondered what hospitals and triage centers would need.

“What about rapid diagnostics that we might be able to help set up, say, outside of a hospital to help with overflow capabilities and testing?” he said. “What about outside of a Walgreen's or a CVS or a doctor's office?”

Dubbed Athena, the labs contain state-of-the-art diagnostic testing equipment, and will be shipped to Maryland on May 13, May 27 and June 17. They will be used by U.S. Army to process more than 600 samples every 24-hour period, according to the news release.

It’s the second time MRIGlobal’s products have been used in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

A bio-containment pod designed by MRIGlobal to transport patients with contagious diseases was used by the U.S. State Department in February to evacuate more than 300 Americans quarantined on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan. The flyable lab, built in what looks like a shipping container, was first created to help with the global response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2015.

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MRIGlobal
Three of MRIGlobal’s mobile medical labs, called “Athena,” were purchased by the U.S. Department of Defense for COVID-19 sample processing and testing.

The idea for the Athena lab came out of that experience, Gray said.

But instead of waiting for a government contract, Gray said his team became focused on preparing a product and being able to deploy it fast.

“We really needed to be focused on the preparation in between events so that we're ready to respond when the event occurs because that's when people are the most vulnerable,” he said. “We want to be available with tools and technologies to be able to help and be able to help right now, not in six months.”

The labs were bought by the DOD’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense.

MRIGlobal was founded by Kansas City business leaders after World War II as the Midwest Research Institute. The non-profit performs contract research for government, industry and academia.

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