May 6, 2020 / 8:52 PM / 3 months ago

Qiagen plans 50-fold production hike for COVID-19 testing kits

May 6 (Reuters) - German molecular testing company Qiagen plans a 50-fold increase in production of viral RNA extraction kits to meet rising demand for products used in COVID-19 testing, the company said on Wednesday.

Qiagen began shipping a rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19, which requires less than one minute for sample preparation and can deliver results in about one hour, to the United States in late March.

The company is also carrying out research to develop further solutions for detection of the new coronavirus, tools for research into potential vaccines and treatments as well as new serology tests for antibodies, Chief Executive Thierry Bernard said in a statement.

"Qiagen's financial position has allowed us to react swiftly and make investments in the expansion of production capacity in Europe and the United States," Chief Financial Officer Roland Sackers said.

The test maker's first-quarter operating income grew 64%, Qiagen said as it confirmed preliminary sales and earnings figures it announced in early April.

The company had said on Tuesday it expects net sales growth of at least 12% and adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of at least 40 cents for the second quarter of 2020 thanks to rising demand for products related to coronavirus testing.

However, Qiagen suspended its outlook for 2020 in late April as the U.S. laboratory supplier Thermo Fisher Scientific is in the process of buying the German genetic testing specialist in a deal worth $11.5 billion. (Reporting by Zuzanna Szymanska in Gdansk; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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