As COVID-19 rapidly spread across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a year ago now, it quickly grew apparent to Boston’s life science community that there was a dire need for efficient, affordable, accessible and equitable testing.
In collaboration with GV and the Broad Institute, F-Prime launched Project Beacon, a social benefit organization focused on increasing the capacity, availability, accessibility and affordability of COVID-19 testing in Massachusetts. Project Beacon is now a leading testing provider in the Commonwealth. Since October 2020, Project Beacon has worked with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to create six Regional Express Covid Testing Sites in Massachusetts, as well as support the Commonwealth’s Abbott BinaxNOW and Pooled Testing efforts for K-12 schools.
In March of 2021, we caught up with F-Prime Venture Partner and Project Beacon Executive Director, Muz Mansuri, Ph.D., to get the latest on this bold initiative.
Q: How did Project Beacon get started?
We saw a failure of COVID-19 testing in the Commonwealth and the necessity for someone to step up to meet the need. Boston is an epicenter of biotechnology and life science innovation. As a community of scientists, investors, and researchers, we felt the urge to answer the call. Our founders wanted to provide robust standardized test results with fast turnaround so we could enable people to go back to work and stay at work.
Q: What is the driving force behind the organization?
We are powered by our mission to help the Commonwealth and its residents safely reopen society and return to work, while reducing disparities by ensuring equitable access to testing across Massachusetts. We’ve always had a particular focus on those who cannot access testing or technology.
Q: How is Project Beacon accessible and affordable?
We serve diverse communities throughout Massachusetts and as such, our testing website is translated into at least seven languages. By charging a little more to organizations with the means to pay for testing and by collaborating with vital partners, we’ve been able to offer the Commonwealth the best price in the marketplace.
Q: How many tests has project Beacon provided?
As of the start of March 2021, we’d performed more than 325,000 tests for the Commonwealth in the various Express sites and over 40,000 tests for private employers, schools and vulnerable populations. We are now actively supporting pool testing to get K-12 children back to school. This effort is ramping up quickly.
Q: What was the greatest challenge in starting this initiative?
At the beginning of the pandemic, testing solutions available off the shelf only catered to the top of the market, and as a result, there were inadequate options for those unable to pay. Often, these groups had the highest need. As a technology-driven company, we’ve made higher-end options available to the general public at more affordable prices.
Q: What is your ultimate goal for Project Beacon?
We want to go out of business. Our vision of success is a world in which we no longer serve a purpose, as that means the pandemic will be behind us.
*Project Beacon was acquired by Ginkgo Bioworks in January 2022. Project Beacon has facilitated more than 1.5 million COVID tests since its inception.
Our goal is to go out of business— Muz Mansuri, Executive Director