University of Illinois saliva-based COVID 19 test gets FDA authorization

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The University of Illinois has received FDA emergency use authorization for its saliva-based COVID-19 test called covidSHIELD, the university announced Monday.

U of I campuses have already been using the test and now it can expand outside of the university system. So far, U of I has conducted more than 1.5 million tests at its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

"The whole process takes less than five minutes for most people, so it's very easy," said Ben Taylor, spokesperson for Shield Illinois. "It's not very burdensome on people and there's no pain or invasive nasal swab or anything like that."

The covidSHIELD test only requires saliva and does not need a nasal swab. Results can come back within 24 hours of a sample reaching a covidSHIELD lab. The university says the test is a fraction of the cost of many widely available tests and it was shown to be highly accurate in a clinical study.

RELATED: COVID-19 saliva tests begin at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Officials said the FDA's emergency use authorization will allow the tests to be adopted on a wider scale. Seven high-capacity labs have already been identified across the state to help process the tests.

"This really will swing open the doors wide to availability for more universities, more school systems, more companies, more units of government who want to utilize the saliva tests to protect their people," Taylor said.

"The University of Illinois has been a national leader in innovation for decades, and the campus' groundbreaking work to develop rapid, saliva-based COVID-19 testing is but the latest example of that tradition," said Gov. JB Pritzker. "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. Even as we lead large-population states in vaccinations, widespread testing remains a critical tool in combating this pandemic, and I'm dedicating $20 million in CARES Act funding to provide one million tests to Illinois' other public universities under the FDA's emergency use authorization. I want to offer my gratitude to the scientists, researchers and healthcare workers at U of I who worked quickly to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, helping save lives and protect our neighbors throughout Illinois."
The $20 million in CARES funding will go toward one million tests at 12 public universities and 48 community colleges.

"We were created to serve the needs of our state and our nation - to help steer through challenges and lead the way to progress," Killeen said. "It is a role we have filled with distinction during the COVID-19 crisis, and this expansion of our breakthrough saliva-based testing will be a real game changer, protecting lives and livelihoods."
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