Qiagen says virus test kit output up 70%, not to blame for U.S. testing delays

March 13 (Reuters) - German molecular testing company Qiagen has increased production of chemical kits needed to test for coronavirus by 70% in the last week and is not responsible for U.S. testing delays, interim chief executive Thierry Bernard said in an interview.

After a report that shortages of a Qiagen product could slow testing in the United States, the company said on Wednesday that demand was “challenging” its capacity to supply RNA extraction kits used to prepare patient samples for some coronavirus tests.

But Bernard said the product is not back ordered, but on allocation, like many medical supplies sold by many companies in the midst of the outbreak.

Qiagen is shipping products and in touch with customers about their needs, he said.

“Qiagen has already shipped to the U.S., in three months, twice as much as we would normally ship in one year,” he said. “Any decrease in testing is not coming from Qiagen.”

The kits in question extract RNA, a kind of genetic material, from patient samples, so any virus can be identified. They are not specific to coronavirus, but used for many routine tests, for example the test for HIV.

They are made by several companies, including Roche. But Qiagen’s products were recommended by name in U.S. Centers for Disease Control testing instructions, boosting demand.

Bernard said he is not aware of anyone unable to run tests because they do not have kits on hand: “There is no rupture of supply.”

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc said last week it had agreed to acquire Qiagen in a $11.5 billion deal. (Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto; editing by Jason Neely)