April 14, 2020
A rapid, saliva test for the coronavirus developed by Rutgers University scientists has received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, paving the way for a potentially broad expansion of COVID-19 testing capacity.
The saliva test relies on samples collected through spit in a tube, providing a safer form of screening for health care providers who administer nasal swabs, which are already in limited supply.
Combined with automated lab technology that can rapidly process results, the Rutgers system can eventually scale up to tens of thousands of samples daily.
“The impact of this approval is significant,” said Andrew Brooks, chief operating officer and director of technology development at RUCDR Infinite Biolgics, the group behind the saliva test. “It means we no longer have to put health care professionals at risk for infection by performing nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal collections. We can preserve precious personal protective equipment for use in patient care instead of testing."
The Rutgers team, partnering with Accurate Diagnostic Labs, participated in a call with the White House's COVID-19 Task Force to discuss expanding capacity to other laboratories. Some of the world's largest life sciences companies also have contacted RUCDR to discuss their system.
“I have spoken with these companies’ leadership to not only share knowledge but to create opportunities for continuing to help innovate during this crisis,” Brooks said. “We will work closely with these new partners, the FDA and the White House task force to leverage everything Rutgers has to offer to not only help our community but also make a global impact.”
The test will debut Wednesday at a drive-thru site in Edison, New Jersey, with first results expected back within 24-48 hours, according to Middlesex County officials.
"Thankfully, we have a rare advantage in such a critical time to be able to rapidly deploy increased testing capabilities and accelerated results, while protecting our frontline workers,” Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said.
As a next step, the saliva tests will become available throughout New Jersey's RWJBarnabas Health Network, which include Rutgers' Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, University Hospital in Newark and several other county health departments.
"We can significantly increase the number of people tested each and every day as self-collection of saliva is more quick and scalable than swab collections. All of this combined will have a tremendous impact on testing in New Jersey and across the United States," Brooks said.