As we face down the public health crisis of COVID-19, offering safe access to testing is paramount in helping tackle the illness, particularly for essential workers and high-risk populations. Vitagene, a health-tech company based in San Francisco, has taken a unique approach to creating easy-to-use and accessible COVID-19 tests, which can be sent directly to your home.
The AI engineers, scientists, and UX designers behind Vitagene started with a mission to improve their customers’ personal health by using the latest in data analytics and machine learning to create engaging experiences in wellness. Their popular DNA Test Kit was developed to help people learn more about their gene makeup – in more detail than traditional health-care providers can supply – and then use that information to tailor their diet and exercise regimes to the exact needs of their body.
This past spring, Vitagene refocused their efforts on COVID-19. FDA EUA authorized, they partnered with several labs authorized by the FDA under the Emergency Use Authorization clause, including RUCDR Infinite Biologics and Spectrum Solutions and Spectrum DNA, to develop “zero contact” COVID-19 saliva test kits – the first at-home test to be authorized by the FDA. These tests run through Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory at RUCDR infinite Biologics, Rutgers University.
“Our mission as a team is to help our customers improve their health and wellness,” Vitagene’s CEO Mehdi Maghsoodnia said in a press release. “Our customer’s number one need right now is access to COVID-19 testing. That’s why our team, alongside our partners, have been working day and night to bring this test to market with physician approval, telehealth supervision, and a clear chain of custody tracking.”
The company’s intuitive testing approach involves “self-collected” saliva samples, meaning that the patients administers the test on themselves, thereby avoiding the risks associated with going to a testing center. Testing sites require that a healthcare professional be in the same room as the symptomatic patient – often administering a nasal test instead of a saliva-based one – which puts those healthcare providers at greater risk of contact with the virus, and increases the chance of cross-contamination. But Vitagene’s “zero contact” solution greatly reduces those risks of exposure.
After an individual collects their own saliva sample, they can send it back to the lab, using the highest priority postage for fast delivery. Lab technicians then assess the sample for symptoms, in a way that’s compliant with all FDA requirements, and return the digital results of the test to the interested customer within 72 hours.
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