Rutgers launches genetic testing service for new coronavirus
Thousands of samples can be analyzed daily
Credit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics has launched a test for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and is using its automation experience and infrastructure to test as many as tens of thousands of samples daily.
RUCDR has also submitted an emergency use authorization request for a saliva collection method that will allow for broader population screening.
The RUCDR effort, which significantly increases the much-needed testing capacity in New Jersey, will provide information that allows people who test positive to self-quarantine, thus limiting the spread of the virus. In addition, health care providers, first responders and others will be able to quickly and safely return to work after recovering from COVID-19 and testing negative.
The test is available now and based on a Nobel Prize-winning laboratory technique that makes millions of copies of the SARS-CoV-2 virus nucleic acid (in this case RNA) in a sample. Testing a nasal or throat swab sample determines whether someone is infected, with results available to providers within three days. Saliva testing would be a new development and would allow testing without the need of a medical provider to take the sample.
The rapid deployment of the test throughout the state is a consequence of a partnership between RUCDR and Accurate Diagnostic Labs (ADL). RUCDR and ADL have a long-standing relationship where ADL provides reference lab services for RUCDR, which facilitates clinical trials that RUCDR supports. RUCDR, in conjunction with ADL’s clinical client base, fast-tracked the validation and verification of new testing methodologies, including saliva, for SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19. These alternate collection options will catapult access of testing and screening to the most needed population.
The test is currently available to the RWJBarnabas Health network, which has partnered with Rutgers University and is New Jersey’s most comprehensive health care system, and includes Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, University Hospital in Newark and many other facilities including several county health departments.
“We can accept hundreds to thousands of samples for analysis per day now and potentially will be able to test tens of thousands of samples daily in the next several weeks,” said Andrew I. Brooks, chief operating officer and director of technology development at RUCDR Infinite Biologics. He is also a professor in the Department of Genetics in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
“Saliva testing will help with the global shortage of swabs for sampling and increase testing of patients, and it will not require health care professionals to collect samples,” Brooks said. “Saliva testing will also be important for people who are in quarantine because they don’t know how long it will be until they are no longer infectious. This will allow health care and workers to release themselves from quarantine and safely come back to work.”
“The test can help hospital-based and private physicians to accurately assess the infection status of more patients, with RUCDR Infinite Biologics doing the analysis,” said Jay A. Tischfield, founder, chief executive officer and scientific director of RUCDR Infinite Biologics and a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Genetics at Rutgers-New Brunswick and at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
RUCDR Infinite Biologics, which is part of Rutgers’ Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey, is the world’s largest university-based cell and DNA repository. Its mission is to understand the genetic causes of common, complex diseases and to discover diagnoses, treatments and cures for them. The organization collaborates with researchers in the public and private sectors throughout the world, providing the highest quality bio-banking services and biomaterials, as well as scientific and technical support.