Pentagon awards $136.7M contract for domestic production of material critical for rapid COVID-19 tests

AP-Andrew Harnik

The Department of Defense (DOD) announced on Wednesday that it was awarding a $136.7 million contract to the Merck-owned brand MilliporeSigma for the domestic production of a material critical for COVID-19 rapid point-of-care tests.

In a statement, the DOD said the contract — awarded on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services — will go toward the production of nitrocellulose membrane in the U.S. Nitrocellulose membrane is a key material for the production of rapid coronavirus tests.

“This industrial base expansion effort will allow MilliporeSigma to establish a nitrocellulose manufacturing capability in its Sheboygan, Wisconsin facility to support more than 83.3 million tests per month for COVID-19 testing and future needs,” said the DOD.

“With this agreement, MilliporeSigma will construct a state-of-the-art lateral flow membrane production facility that will give our invitro diagnostic (IVD) manufacturing customers greater flexibility and security of supply of our Hi-Flow™ Plus lateral flow membranes,” said Matthias Heinzel, a member of Merck’s executive board.

MilliporeSigma was formed in a merger between the Millipore Corporation, which was founded as an American brand in the 1950s and later acquired by the German Merck KGaA pharmaceutical company in 2010, and Sigma-Aldrich, another American company that was acquired by Merck in 2015.

COVID-19 tests have been in short supply in the U.S. as the spread of the highly-transmissible omicron variant has driven a surge in cases.

Earlier this week, President Biden acknowledged that more could have been done to ensure coronavirus testing availability.

“Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do. We’re doing it,” Biden said in a COVID-19 response team call with governors on Monday.

While touting the recently approved availability of at-home COVID-19 tests, Biden acknowledged that “it’s not enough, it’s clearly not enough.”

Tags COVID-19 testing Defense Department Department of Health and Human Services DOD HHS Joe Biden Merck Merck Group Merck Millipore MilliporeSigma Nitrocellulose rapid tests

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