Stowers Institute develops saliva test for COVID-19

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new testing process for COVID-19, which promises faster results at drastically reduced costs, is being developed by the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. The institute wants to expand test processing to eliminate the backlog of samples and long waits for results.

Dr. David Chao says Stowers has developed an easier test that uses saliva, instead of nasal swabs.
Swabs have been in short supply and require a healthcare professional to obtain a sample in what’s not always a pleasant process.

Fifty volunteers have been working at Stowers for the last three months to develop a saliva test, which uses robotic machines to automatically determine test results. With $500,000 in equipment, Stowers researchers say they can test 500 samples a day accurately, while reducing costs by two or three times what labs charge now.

“This is all being done with the money of the Stowers Institute,” said Mike White, an attorney for the medical research center. “There is no federal grant involved. We are not here today asking the county for any money. We are trying to do our part to help calm down this virus.”

Before giving away its testing recipe to the rest of the world, the institute is forming an agreement with Jackson County to provide the research center immunity from liability.

Stowers says it plans to seek an emergency use authorization for its test from the federal Food and Drug Administration within the next month. Researchers at Stowers believe if hospitals and labs invest in their automated process, it will help eliminate the backlog of samples waiting to be analyzed.

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