Boston area researchers hope to create at-home COVID-19 test

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Researchers with the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT & the Broad Institute are working toward a goal of creating an at-home COVID-19 test with fast results.

The team of Boston-area scientists has developed an experimental test that offers results in just an hour.

It’s not yet been reviewed or approved by the FDA and is currently for research purposes only.

However, those involved in the efforts told Boston 25 News the feedback they’ve heard thus far has been promising.

“One of our goals is to allow people to figure out if they have the virus in a safe environment, such as their own home,” said Feng Zhang, investigator with the McGovern Institute and core member at the Broad Institute.

The team released a new updated protocol on Tuesday that “drastically simplifies the procedure so that people can more easily carry out the experiment to look for the virus.”

The technique, dubbed a “one pot” protocol, works in a single test tube. It requires minimal handling and, in preliminary studies, has been highly accurate.

“All someone would need to do is take saliva or swab sample, and they can put it in a simple extraction buffer for a few minutes… which they then put in our SHERLOCK assay,” explained Omar Abudayyeh with the McGovern Institute. “After an hour, you can put a pregnancy style strip into the reaction, which then leads out with a line if you have the presence of COVID-19.”

These determined researchers have been in contact with the FDA to learn the necessary requirements to receive “emergency use authorization.” Emergency use authorization would allow clinical use of the test.

“People are very excited about taking this test into the research labs,” said Jonathan Gootenberg with the McGovern Institute. “This is a test we hope at some point can be more accessible across the world.”

The team is hoping to fill the current gap in testing by offering affordable tests that are easy enough to use without special expertise.

“We’re working as fast as we can,” added Zhang. “We probably have a few months to go before we can put this into people’s hands.”

Existing “home” COVID-19 tests allow people to collect a sample but require the actual test be done at a lab.

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