Oceanit Laboratories, a biotech company based in Hawaii, said they are just weeks away from seeking FDA approval for a rapid saliva COVID-19 test called ASSURE-19, which stands for Accelerated Sensor Solution for Urgent Response to Epidemics.
If approved and brought to market, the test could be a game changer in the fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“This gives you a very fast turnaround, highly sensitive and specific to the COVID virus and it looks like a pregnancy, little test. So no machines needed. It’s based on saliva,” Oceanit founder and CEO Dr. Pat Sullivan explained Friday morning on Spotlight Hawaii.
The test works by detecting the virus in a saliva sample, with the goal 95% accuracy, which Sullivan said they have been able to achieve in trials.
Sullivan said COVID-19 test results are available in as little as 10 minutes, and the test itself could retail for between $5 to $20, depending on the scale of manufacturing. Because the turnaround is so much faster than the more expensive PCR test, which can take days, he said the virus could be much more easily contained.
“This gives you the tool to create a bubble in a community. And if you make small bubbles, grow them to bigger bubbles, you can make Hawaii as one big bubble. And then you could bring in visitors, as long as they follow the right protocol, they’re good to go. They don’t need to quarantine,” he said.
Sullivan said there is widespread interest in ASSURE-19, especially for schools, travel and work places. Oceanit hopes to manufacture the tests in Hawaii, but is still working to finding the right production facilities and to secure the necessary supply chains as soon as possible.
Sullivan said this is the kind of innovation that could help to diversify Hawaii’s economy in this time of great need, but it is going to take leadership and commitment at all levels.
“We need to take an attitude that we’re gonna save ourselves as a community by taking the talent, the Unversity, the medical infrastructure, we’re gonna build a future,” he said.
“Are we interested in really creating a diverse economy, or do we just want to talk about it? That’s the basic question that’s on display here.”
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.