Brooklyn-based company Mirimus, Inc. was recently named one of five winners in the XPRIZE Rapid Covid Testing competition, a national competition for those who are working to advance COVID-19 testing. Mirimus has been awarded a $500,000 prize for their testing method and will be moving on to the next stage of the competition, with the opportunity to win another $500,000.
Before COVID, the company worked with RNAi and CRISPR tech to develop animal models for new therapies. For Prem Premsrirut, the CEO and Co-Founder of Mirimus, which was founded in PLG in 2010, using the lab’s skills to help was a no-brainer.
“When [you’re] faced with crises and you have the skills to help you dont want to stay home and feel useless. A lot of us here at the company, everyone just volunteered and said ‘No, no, no, we’re not staying home at this time when we have the scientific skills [and] we have all the equipment that we need to run these tests, there’s no reason why we couldn’t do it’,” Premsrirut said. Another motivation was her children, and the desire to get them back into school as quickly as possible.
Mirimus started working on testing methods before the XPRIZE competition was even announced, early in April of 2020. Their method, SalivaClear, allows for the testing of many samples at one time, and is designed to be more cost-effective and efficient. Pool testing like this, Premsrirut says, was often met with scrutiny from physicians and the public early on, but has since been recognized as an extremely viable option.
“We had a lot of hurdles to overcome to have the general physicians and public accept this method. So having gone through such rigorous validation from a top-notch scientific team, and a lot of competition with many great ideas being compared side by side like that, really helps to validate us and say, ‘this method really should be looked at more closely’,” Premsrirut said. “It came at the right time, because with all the funding coming from the Biden administration for testing, pool testing is now, finally, at the top of the list as a method.”
The team is testing at over 500 schools, businesses, and shelters nationally.
Clawdaddy’s, a Cajun seafood restaurant with locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, was one of the first to get on board when the program was still in its pilot stages, thanks to a mutual friend of both parties. They’re still working with Mirimus to do weekly staff tests, says Grace Lauren, a partner at the restaurant.
“It’s really for the comfort of the staff. Even when we didn’t have indoor dining and only take-out, the staff weren’t feeling comfortable working with other staff. Not everyone was living nearby, some were traveling all the way from the Bronx, from New Jersey, so they were taking mass transportation. That made some staff really uncomfortable,” Lauren said. “We did it to make sure everyone was safe, and to make sure everyone feels safe while they were working.”
Premsrirut knew the importance of safety and feeling comfortable at work, as a small business owner herself.
“I just knew how devastating it would be if we closed our doors and how hard it would be to reopen without some kind of testing, [to allow] people to come back to a place where they know their neighbor or someone they sit close to isn’t carrying a virus,” Premsrirut said.
Clawdaddy’s also needed that feeling of safety.
“Without this opportunity, we almost shut down because all our staff really really didn’t feel comfortable,” Lauren said.
For the next phase of the competition, XPRIZE requires testers to do 500 tests per week over four weeks of deployment. Mirimus is doing about 25,000 tests per day, Premsrirut says.