ASSURE stands for: Accelerated Sensor Solution for Urgent Response to Epidemics. ASSURE-19 is an ‘Antigen Diagnostic COVID-19 test’ for rapid point-of-care testing.
ASSURE-19 is a novel approach to lab- and machine-free testing for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The test kits are developed utilizing Oceanit’s TRIAD platform technology, leveraging Artificial Intelligence to design engineered molecules, built for purpose. These molecules are designed to specifically target SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins, thus enabling “lab-on-a-chip” testing – making point-of-care testing as simple as a home pregnancy test or ancestral DNA kit.
ASSURE-19 uses a saliva specimen, “spit test,” to screen for viruses without having uncomfortably swab high up in a person’s nasal passage, or draw blood. It requires no expensive or complex lab equipment, no training or technicians, and no delays while samples are transported or cultured. ASSURE-19 can provide results at home, at school, at an office, or in a health care facility within just minutes.
ASSURE-19 test kits resemble an ancestry DNA kit combined with a home pregnancy test, which are widely known as Lateral Flow Assays (LFAs). ASSURE-19 kits contain both a saliva collection tube and an LFA test stick. An LFA test works by simply reacting to a user’s specimen and displaying control and positive/negative lines, similar to a home pregnancy test.
First, a user spits into a collection tube where the specimen is combined with a premixed reagent. For several minutes, the reagent breaks down and exposes the viral proteins. The engineered molecules then ‘lock’ on to a specific part of that viral protein. When the specimen is applied to the LFA, captured viral proteins accumulate on the test stick to develop the red lines that indicate a positive test.
ASSURE-19 tests can be done at room temperature, do not require laboratory processing time – either on-site or at lab facilities – and do not require any specialized equipment.
The ASSURE-19 test was developed to be so easy that an 8 year old could take the test. At scale, ASSURE tests could lead to rapid and regular testing that is critical to reopen our economy.
Speed Is Key
Health care propfessionals across the United States have been using the gold standard “PCR test” for detecting and tracking COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, as tests and materials remain in short supply across the country, health experts advise that the best chance to combat the pandemic spread is with the use of rapid, slightly less accurate tests, with regularity and at scale.
“What’s really important, in terms of a public health perspective, is to have a rapid test, which is not perfect, but good enough to say you (probably) have COVID-19, so you can go get a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and quarantine yourself until you get those results.”
– Roy Parker, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Health experts agree that increased rapid and frequent testing would identify those who need immediate medical care, allow for asymptomatic person testing, and perhaps even pinpoint those at greatest risk of spreading the disease. Saliva tests are one such rapid test, however, many that available now still rely on specialized machines at a testing site, processing times measured in hours, and trained technicians. They are also neither cheap nor easy to produce in bulk.
“We can’t have these (current rapid tests) in every household,” – Michael Mina, Epidemiologist at Harvard University’s School of Public Health.
ASSURE-19 could be the answer to these challenges: tests that could be done at a doctor’s office, or at home — no laboratory machines or specially trained personnel required — and at a cost far lower than that of other testing methods. And there would be no delays of hours, days, a week or longer. Results delivered in minutes.
Broad distribution of ASSURE-19 would ease the demand for PCR tests, with PCR serving still as the gold standard for detection, but being moderated to those who test positive using antigen saliva tests.
In a recent paper, Dr. Daniel Larremore, an applied mathematician who models infectious diseases at the University of Colorado, Boulder, showed through mathematical models that a test less-sensitive than PCR, rolled out twice a week, vastly outperformed more accurate tests, administered once every two weeks, in curbing the spread of disease. Other studies pitting speed against sensitivity have come to similar conclusions.