The Food and Drug Administration has granted an emergency use authorization for a saliva-based coronavirus test developed by the University of Illinois, allowing the test to be used at universities around the state and around the country.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced plans for the state to dedicate $20 million in funding to deploy one million tests to other public universities in the state.
“My administration has been proud to work hand in hand with U of I since the earliest days of this development, which has had an enormously positive effect on keeping COVID-19 at bay in the U of I System, and we’re wasting no time in deploying this technology throughout the state,” the governor said in a statement.
According to the school, the university has already conducted more than 1.5 million tests using covidSHIELD technology at its campuses in Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.
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U of I President Tim Killeen said the school is eager to share the test.
“We were created to serve the needs of our state and our nation, to help steer through challenges and lead the way to progress,” he said in a statement. “It is a role we have filled with distinction during the COVID crisis, and this expansion of our breakthrough saliva testing will be a real game changer, protecting lives and livelihoods.”
The test only requires a deposit of saliva, rather than a nasal swab. It takes minutes to collect the sample, and results are returned within 24 hours of the sample reaching a lab.
The tests are also significantly cheaper than nasal swabs and other widely-available tests, and the tests have been shown to be just as effective as other tests in clinical studies.
Senator Dick Durbin lauded the FDA’s authorization of the test, calling it a key to “dramatically expanding” testing in the United States.
“Today’s EUA is a game changer in our efforts to combat COVID-19 across Illinois and the United States,” Durbin said. “When the pandemic struck, University of Illinois answered the call – and the low-cost saliva-testing program could be the key to dramatically expanding our testing infrastructure. I’m proud to stand with the remarkable work of U of I’s students and researchers. I’m thankful for their efforts to improve our public health.”
The current plan is to deploy the test at the state’s 12 public universities and 48 community colleges. The school has created a Shield T3 unit to help deploy the tests at the federal level, but details are still being worked out on how to expand usage of the test.