Chemical & Engineering News recently highlighted the development of the COVID-19 screening system by a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign team, which includes chemistry professors Paul Hergenrother and Martin Burke.
The Nov. 1, 2020, article, which includes comments from Hergenrother, states that the university's COVID-19 testing program, called SHIELD, "holds important lessons about the strengths and limitations" of a routine testing regimen, including:
- Highlighting the trade-offs between speed and accuracy of different diagnostic tests and the vital role of robotics and automation.
- Demonstrating the high cost of testing.
- Emphasizing that routine testing is only one part of a successful screening system.
Since spring, Burke has been leading the SHIELD initiative, which has strategically deployed rapid and scalable COVID-19 testing on the university campus to detect the virus and virus antibodies by testing thousands of students, faculty and staff each week. Burke has been joined in this effort by a large number of partners from across campus, including Hergenrother, who developed the saliva-based COVID-19 test that has been key in the university campus re-opening for the fall semester. The SHIELD team protocols have also included frontier modeling and contact tracing platforms.
The direct saliva test has avoided bottlenecks of time, cost and supplies and boasts features that enable fast and frequent testing on a large scale. It is now in process of being made broadly available across the country. As a result, this innovative work has garnered national attention.