CDL Rapid Screening Consortium

Written By CDL Rapid Screening Consortium (Super Administrator)

Updated at April 30th, 2021

Origin Story

The World Health Organization in Geneva declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020. It was immediately clear that COVID-19 represented a novel crisis. Novel crises require novel responses. Novel responses require innovation, often predicated on insights from science. CDL’s mission is to accelerate the commercialization of science for the betterment of humankind. So, in March 2020, we decided that we must redeploy some of our resources to focus on the crisis by applying the CDL model and community to rapidly translate science into solutions.

In April 2020, CDL launched a new program, CDL Recovery. The program focused on innovations in two domains: 1) public health, and 2) economic recovery. At the same time, CDL Chief Economist Joshua Gans published the first book in the world on the economics of COVID-19. The main thesis of the book is that while most people think of COVID-19 as a health problem, it is also an information problem. In the absence of information on who the small fraction of people are who are infected, we must treat everyone like they could be infected, and that results in shutting down a large part of the economy. This would become the underlying intellectual framework of the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium.

While CDL Recovery attracted brilliant inventors, entrepreneurs, and scientists from around the world, we realized that we also needed clear insight into the specific problems creating frictions preventing people from being able to go back to work. So, in May 2020, CDL launched the CDL Vision Council - a group of business leaders of large corporations and thought leaders like Mark Carney and Margaret Atwood. The Vision Council’s mission: Identify the primary problems at the root of the crisis to provide insight into what types of technology-driven solutions might have a first order impact on stimulating economic activity, restoring or creating jobs, and enhancing society such that human civilization emerges stronger and more stable than before the COVID-19 crisis began. This group discussed and debated a number of topics. As the virtues of rapid testing kept resurfacing as a key piece of the recovery puzzle, a small group of CEOs decided to move beyond talking and take action. In August 2020, the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium (CDL RSC) was born.

CDL was founded in 2012 by Professor Ajay Agrawal at the University of Toronto. Today it operates at nine universities, including the University of Oxford, HEC Paris, Georgia Tech, University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, HEC Montreal, Dalhousie University, and the University of Toronto. 


To develop a cost effective system for reopening the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic in the absence of widely available vaccines or treatments.


Develop a system capable of conducting COVID-19 screens that can be administered for less than $1 per individual and produce results within 15 minutes with a false negative rate of less than 10% for infectiousness. 

Note: Antigen tests can have a false negative rate for infectiousness (roughly equivalent to Ct < 30) between 20% (e.g. BinaxNOW in Arizona or Panbio in France) to 50% (e.g. Innova in Liverpool). 

The Work to Be Done

Setting up screening protocols for the variety of places in our society is not a simple matter. We have not faced the challenge of protecting so many different places at scale. This involves logistic challenges and also experimentation to find best practices. 

The work of the CDL RSC is to innovate and solve those problems so that the results can be gifted to all who need them.

Pilots across many sites have been implemented as of January 2021 at CDL RSC Member organizations, but will now evolve to include small and medium-sized enterprises. All the while the CDL RSC team will be monitoring best practices, experimenting with different forms of implementation and then compiling a means of disseminating those findings as soon as they are available.

All pilots will be conducted within provincial and territorial guidelines and requirements for managing COVID-19. All screens will be government approved and our pilots will be conducted according to guidelines set by the appropriate public health authorities. 

Current Status (as of February 2021)

CDL RSC is in the process of expanding pilot sites across Canada. The purpose of the pilots is to study and enhance (1) operational efficiency (2) operational effectiveness and (3) operational impact of the rapid screening system in various workplace settings. All pilot sites report de-identified data into the CDL RSC Data System. This system allows pilot site operators to view a dashboard of their local pilot site, as well as the Central Dashboard, that compares metrics across all sites in the country.

There are currently 29 pilot sites confirmed across four provinces. CDL RSC is in the process of welcoming additional pilot participants to run pilot sites, share data, and develop best practices within the CDL RSC Playbook. The Playbook will be shared as a public good as soon as CDL RSC Members feel we have sufficiently integrated learnings from across all of our pilot.

Learn more about the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium here

Was this article helpful?