Tech company developing saliva based COVID-19 test promises rapid results from home

Coronavirus
Courtesy: Oceanit Laboratories

Courtesy: Oceanit Laboratories

HONOLULU (KHON2) — How does this sound? A ten-minute, twenty-dollar, saliva based COVID-19 test you can do from the comfort of your own home, no lab necessary. That’s exactly what one local engineering company is offering.

Oceanit Laboratories announced patient trials using its ASSURE-19 saliva test have been underway at Queen’s Medical Center since Aug. 22. The saliva test aims to offer rapid initial testing in key areas like airports, hospitals, schools and other places where social distancing may be harder to maintain.

“This could be a game changer,” said Oceanit CEO Dr. Patrick Sullivan in a live Facebook meeting with Hawaii minority leader Rep. Gene Ward. Sullivan called the test a faster, cheaper and simpler COVID-19 method to the traditional nose swab procedure.

“The idea was to make it easy and simple, where eight to eighty-year-olds could use it,” Sullivan added.

The test, which is meant to be self-administered, involves spitting in a tube and injecting the tube into a plastic device. The device, much like a pregnancy test, would then show the user two red lines if COVID-positive or one red line if COVID-negative.

Courtesy: Oceanit Laboratories

ASSURE-19 was selected as a semi-finalist in the XPRIZE Rapid Covid Testing competition, a 6-month contest which incentivizes companies to develop reliable COVID-19 testing alternatives.

When asked about the reliability of the test, Sullivan explained that unlike a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which matches sequences of a nucliotide, ASSURE-19 detects antigens leading it to be much more sensitive to detect strains of the virus.

The goal is to have ASSURE-19 approved by the FDA to quickly identify individuals who are infected with the Covid-19 virus, particularly those who have been exposed but may be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic – posing a potentially high infectious threat to others.

Oceanit Laboratories

In addition to this, the technology company also rolled out the “Aloha Protocol.” Sullivan says the concept would allow the state to test passengers as they arrive to local airports, which would prompt officials to better catch COVID-positive cases before they could spread the virus to the community.

For better accuracy, passengers would also be encouraged to take the ASSURE-19 test six times to support what the company is calling “COVID-free bubbles,” designated public spaces where spread could be minimized due to increased community participation.

“Think of the Aloha Protocol like a prescription: ‘take these tests, once per day, for six days.’ All six ASSURE-19 tests together cost less than a single PCR test, and if you test positive with one, you go into quarantine for 14 days. Various versions of this protocol would also apply for schools, airports, businesses, etc.”

Oceanit Laboratories

Oceanit adds that it’s currently awaiting emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with hopes to start distributing upwards of 25,000 tests per day. Sullivan shared that additional funding, clinical data and cross reactivity testing, which requires performing blind proficiency tests to see if ASSURE-19 could accidentally catch other viruses, is currently keeping the product from heading into its manufacturing stage.

“We’re weeks away, I think.” said the CEO.

For more information on the ASSURE-19 test, visit their website.

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