BOULDER — Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a rapid COVID-19 saliva test that renders results in 45 minutes. They’ve now spun off a company to commercialize the test.
Medical professionals around the country have been working to develop a rapid COVID test, which would help tamp down the spread of the virus because those testing positive could be isolated before they infect other people.
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“We are facing a serious testing shortage in this country right now as more people want to get tested and diagnostics labs are overwhelmed,” Nicholas Meyerson, a postdoctoral associate in the Sawyer Lab at the BioFrontiers Institute at CU Boulder, said in a report from CU about the development. “We’ve developed a test that could get results to people much faster.”
The test is designed for widespread screening to help identify asymptomatic individuals. Research shows people infected with the virus but with no obvious symptoms make up as many as 70% of cases and can still spread disease. In this test, a user spits in a tube, adds a solution to stabilize it then closes the lid and hands it off to testing staff. They process it through a system requiring little more than pipettes, a heating source and an enzyme mixture.
If the sample turns from pink to yellow, the test is positive. If it doesn’t, it’s negative.
Because no swabs are required, and no elaborate equipment is needed, the tests are less vulnerable to backlogs and supply chain shortages, the researchers said.
“Every test that has been approved to date requires that the sample, even if it’s saliva, be processed in a clinical diagnostic lab or at a doctor’s office, using sophisticated equipment. That can take up to nine days right now,” said Sara Sawyer, a professor and virologist in the Department of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology, who led the development of the test.
Meyerson said that initial testing resulted in a high degree of accuracy. Additional second-party validation tests are currently underway.
The research team, in cooperation with Venture Partners at CU Boulder, has created a spinoff company, Darwin Biosciences, to commercialize the test.
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