ASU Biodesign Institute approaches one year since development of PCR test

ASU’s Biodesign Institute is approaching the 1-million mark for the administering of its covid saliva-test. Arizona was one of the first states in the country to “offer” this type of test and it’s become a significant tool in the fight against covid. Dr. Josh LaBaer is the Biodesign Institute’s executive director. We spoke with him earlier today.

LaBaer said this process began back in February of 2020 when Michael Crow asked how ASU would go about testing its populations of students and faculty, and some of his colleagues realized some technology in use could be used to test for covid-19.

“Initially, we were doing the nasal swabs but we realized there was no way we were going to get to the numbers we needed to get through that way and so we started working on that in March, and by the end of May and early June we were already switching to saliva testing,” LaBaer said.

LaBaer said this switch in testing for ASU was exactly what the Biodesign Institute was designed to do, and that is finding solutions to crises and real-world health challenges.

LaBaer said this test has opened new opportunities for the institute, such as vaccine development and serology.

“Our lab as a result of this won a $14 million contract from the National Cancer Institute to look at serology for Covid-19 in large part because they knew we could handle large projects,” LaBaer said.

With regard to the status of the pandemic, LaBaer said he never imagined back in early 2020 where we would be now, and the chaos of the entire pandemic.

“We think a lot of the population has either been vaccinated or infected or both. That’s my suspicion, we are doing a study right now at ASU we’ve had 1,000 volunteers we’re going to find out answers pretty soon,” LaBaer said.

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