UCLA gets FDA authorization for coronavirus testing tech that can simultaneously process thousands of samples

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A scientist holds a test tube and a cotton swab in this undated file photo. (Getty Images)

A scientist holds a test tube and a cotton swab in this undated file photo. (Getty Images)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for UCLA’s new coronavirus testing technology that can simultaneously process thousands of samples, the university said Thursday.

The new technology, SwabSeq, is being touted as a quicker and less expensive testing platform than the current widely used method.

“This is a technological breakthrough that will dramatically increase the amount of COVID-19 testing while reducing the wait time for results and costs,” UCLA Health Sciences vice chancellor Dr. John Mazziotta said in a news release.

UCLA scientists say the technology processes thousands of samples at the same time then produces results in 12 to 24 hours.

“Using SwabSeq, a relatively small lab can process tens of thousands of samples per day,” said UCLA’s Eleazar Eskin, who was part of the team that developed the new platform.

SwabSeq attaches a type of “molecular bar code” to each sample, which would allow labs to combine large batches in a sequencing machine and quickly identify those that have the coronavirus, the university said.

Eskin told dot.LA that at scale, it would costs $10 for each coronavirus test.

The FDA’s authorization, issued Tuesday, says SwabSeq will be used only at qualified UCLA labs.

“The sequencing technology is able to fill the gap in COVID-19 testing, particularly for the asymptomatic population, because it doesn’t have the same supply chain bottlenecks that have limited further expansion of current clinical PCR testing,” UCLA professor Dr. Jonathan Flint said.

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