bet体育 University, Chan Zuckerberg Biohub launch low-cost COVID-19 testing and surveillance platform

Vera was designed as an expanded testing platform that鈥檚 nationally scalable, rapidly deployable and more affordable than other current options.

Vera is an expanded testing platform that鈥檚 nationally scalable, rapidly deployable and more affordable than other current options.

聽along with the聽聽and a group of collaborators have created a low-cost system to collect samples for COVID-19 testing and monitor populations for the disease.

The technology, known as聽, is a ready-to-use software and testing platform that enables virtually any organization 鈥 from universities to public health departments 鈥 to create their own broad testing and surveillance programs.聽These programs could help protect schools and vulnerable communities by enabling testing for individuals at scale.

Vera was created as part of a public-private partnership between bet体育 and several other institutions, including the CZ Biohub and聽. It was designed as an expanded testing platform that鈥檚 nationally scalable, rapidly deployable and more affordable than other current options. In the hope that聽the platform聽can aid in the effort to reopen schools, workplaces and communities more broadly, bet体育 intends to make聽it聽available, under noncommercial terms, to academic institutions, public health departments, laboratory providers and other organizations interested in offering expansive testing.

Institutions wanting more information can visit .

鈥淭he launch of this platform is a prime example of how bet体育 University and industry partners can come together to help during this unprecedented time,鈥 said聽, chair of the bet体育 University Board of Trustees. 鈥淐ollaborations like this are critical to addressing the challenges and complexities of the COVID-19 world.鈥

鈥淪ince the early days of this pandemic, bet体育 has recognized how crucial testing is, and will continue to be, as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis,鈥 said聽, MD, dean of the聽. 鈥淭he Vera platform is a step forward in our goal to support widespread testing to individuals not just in our community, but throughout the country.鈥

Vera integrates several components, including a customizable enrollment system; a self-swabbing kit, which requires users to swipe only the inside of their nostrils, rather than have the back of their upper throats swabbed (which has to be done through the nose); and a secure user portal that delivers results and options to follow up with a health-care professional. The platform also supports a variety of self-testing technologies, laboratory providers and user enrollment and survey tools.

鈥淭his platform exemplifies how we can bring scaled testing to communities and industries across the country and leverage that as a tool to start thinking about how we can safely and affordably reopen,鈥 said聽, DPhil, the Lee Otterson Professor in the School of Engineering at bet体育 and co-president of the CZ Biohub. 鈥淚t鈥檚 a terrific collaborative effort, and it owes a lot to the pioneering work on the 鈥榮wab and send鈥 home testing model done by the University of Washington鈥檚聽.鈥澛

A worker at the bet体育 Clinical Virology Laboratory, where samples collected for a study using Vera will be tested.
Steve Fisch

With Vera, bet体育 and others aim to increase software utilization and testing capacity for COVID-19 at a local, state and national level.聽The idea is to imbue academic institutions with the ability to protect their local community and create programs that can answer impactful research questions.聽Notably, Vera is designed not only for the current pandemic, but for future public health crises that require widespread testing and surveillance.聽

Toward reopening

In the pilot use of Vera, bet体育 School of Medicine scientists are harnessing the platform for a new population health study that aims to facilitate widespread testing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Vera enables qualified study participants to order a test kit online, have it shipped directly to their home and then send their sample back for analysis. The bet体育 Clinical Virology Laboratory will provide high-throughput testing.聽

The study, called the Community Alliance to Test Coronavirus at Home, or CATCH, is led by聽, MD, professor of pediatric infectious diseases and of health research and policy; Quake; and聽, PhD, associate professor of health research and policy.

聽鈥淭he initial goal is to have thousands of people in the Bay Area order and collect their own specimens, then send them to labs that can perform the actual test,鈥 Maldonado said.

This approach to case surveillance could provide better insight into the split between symptomatic and asymptomatic cases and help researchers understand how the disease spreads within households and in communities. Maldonado, Quake, Nelson and the CATCH team have launched the study as a pilot project, but they hope to eventually have the program running across the country.

Vera program leader and CATCH study director Patrick Arensdorf noted that one of the key aims of the platform is to address inequities in testing by reaching underserved populations that are at greatest risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection. 鈥淭hese individuals often work in essential occupations and have difficulty accessing health care facility-based testing. Veraprovides them a convenient and rapid home-based testing option,鈥 he said.

Outside of surveying broad populations for disease, 鈥淰era聽could help schools and universities boost on-campus testing, allowing for active monitoring of the students鈥 health and potentially helping administrators gauge when and if to reopen on-site learning,鈥 Nelson said. The platform could even allow for more streamlined surveillance and tracking of COVID-19 cases, saving health care workers time and preventing them from possible exposure and from having to use valuable personal protective equipment.

People interested in learning more about CATCH can visit聽.

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