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UMass Lowell Researchers Working on At-home Rapid Coronavirus Test

Aerial view of East Campus with Donahue

06/09/2020
Boston Globe
By Matt Berg

An at-home coronavirus test that can deliver results in as little as five minutes is being developed by University of Massachusetts Lowell researchers, school officials announced Tuesday.

Coronavirus tests often take several hours or days to return results, according to a statement from UMass Lowell. The new test, however, will use a diagnostic tool and function like a home pregnancy test.

“Our tests would work with a wide range of bodily fluids, including urine, saliva, and nasal fluids. You place a sample on the device, and it will tell you in five minutes the result," said Gulden Camci-Unal, assistant professor of chemical engineering at UMass Lowell, in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.

Camci-Unal, along with biomedical engineering and biotechnology doctoral candidate Darlin Lantigua, came up with the idea for a rapid COVID-19 test when the virus became widespread in February and March. With the university’s approval, the two went to work, following state health guidelines by communicating over Skype and allowing one person in the lab at a time.

Due to the simplicity of the test, an untrained person will be able to use it and read the results, the researchers said. It can also be used by health care workers and first responders.

“It can be used by normal people, people like you and me, who have no training," Lantigua said in a telephone interview. “It’s just a simple test, and it can easily be evaluated.”

Other coronavirus tests must be performed and evaluated by a health care professional, Camci-Unal said.

The researchers emphasized the test’s low cost, portability, and potential for scalability when it is released.

The test is still in the development stage, but it could be ready for use within months, Camci-Unal said. The test’s release date will depend on approval by the Food and Drug Administration and when the team of researchers can find an industry partner to help move the test from lab to market, she said.