COVID-19 Testing R&D Highlights

Collaborated with the DoD, CDC, and FDA to provide experimental data in support of national guidelines in all phases of the nucleic acid testing process, including assessment of potential contamination in commercial kits; evaluation of sample pooling approaches to potentially reduce per test costs by a factor of ten; assessment of viral transport media and protocols to assure efficacy of tests even after less than desirable shipping or storage; evaluation of virus inactivation and extraction methods to assure test efficacy and protect frontline health care workers.

Developed analysis tools to maintain awareness of the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome, as it relates to nucleic acid-based assays. For example, see for an automatic in silico evaluation of diagnostic assays used around the world. On December 20, 2020, this web application provided comparisons for 17 assays using 44,224 SARS-CoV-2 genomes.

Identified distinguishing signatures in the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome that can be used to rapidly detect this pathogen and other co-infecting pathogens in multiplexed assays. For example, this advance identified potentially significant relationships of co-infections with Streptococcus pneumonia and Streptococcus pyogenes in positive COVID-19 samples; co-infections with other pathogens are being evaluated.

Developed a small nucleic acid test instrument that can rapidly detect SARS-CoV-2 with high sensitivity. The Reveal-CoV instrument, which uses a one-step amplification process followed by heat inactivation and lysis, employs a colorimetric change for detection.

Devised a “COVID Whistle” that incorporates sample collection media to simplify both collection of exhaled breath and extraction of virus; device is being evaluated by a university collaborator.