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ASU Team Wins $6M in Government Funding to Develop Rapid Saliva Testing System for Coronavirus

NEW YORK — Arizona State University said on Thursday that it has been awarded $6 million in government funding to develop a rapid, point-of-need saliva testing system for SARS-CoV-2.

The test is based on a technology, developed by ASU's Alex Green and collaborators and previously demonstrated with Zika virus, that combines isothermal RNA amplification with toehold switch sensors to detect target viral RNA sequences.

It will be designed to run on a portable testing device that will generate a green fluorescent signal within 20 minutes if SAR-CoV-2 is detected. The device is expected to first be rolled out to CLIA labs and, ultimately, point-of-need settings such as doctors' offices and workplaces, according to ASU Professor Mark Hayes, who is co-leading the project with Green and ASU's Jennifer Blain Christen.

In addition to the test and device, the new funding — comprising $5.2 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act and $860,000 from the Arizona Department of Health Services — will be used to optimize a dielectrophoresis-based microfluidics method for the isolation and concentration of viral particles, Hayes said. 

A working prototype of the test system is expected to be complete within six months and will be submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration for Emergency Use Authorization, ASU said.

"Ultimately, we want to produce something easy to use so anyone could spit on a chip while waiting for results for a few minutes and then be cleared for everyday activities or events, or rapidly isolated or ID'd as infected," Hayes said in a statement.

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