BUFFALO – SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse will construct a COVID-19 testing laboratory at the state University at Buffalo to increase capacity and speed up analysis of Upstate’s COVID-19 saliva test as SUNY campuses reopen across the state.
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced the project during a visit Sunday to UB as he met with college President Satish Tripathi and Upstate Medical University President Mantosh Dewan. Malatras also visited Buffalo State College and met with President Katherine Conway-Turner. Both campuses were conducting pre-semester testing before in-person classes resume for the spring semester.
SUNY is investing $120,000 in the expansion by purchasing the equipment to process Upstate Medical’s COVID-19 test at the new lab. Additional funding will be provided by joint partner Quadrant Biosciences, a New York-based molecular diagnostics company. The UB laboratory will be staffed by Quadrant Biosciences in partnership with SUNY faculty and student medical researcher teams, as the site handles weekly saliva testing for all SUNY campuses in Western New York.
“Today’s announcement is the best of SUNY — an all hand’s on deck approach to collaborate to combat this virus — with Upstate Medical and UB joining forces to expand testing capacity that will help meet the challenge of weekly testing of all students, faculty, and staff on campus during the spring semester,” said Malatras. “We also want to provide our testing outside of our college borders into the broader community, and this expansion will provide additional long-term capacity to do so.”
SUNY recently increased testing frequency of all students, faculty, and staff on campus to at least once a week and the new Upstate Medical and partner Quadrant Biosciences lab at UB will be able to process 150,000 tests a week, increasing the total testing to 350,000 tests per week across SUNY, with results being returned to campuses within 24 hours. The lab will be operational by March 1.
“Along with the health and safety guidelines already in place at UB, weekly surveillance testing using Upstate Medical’s COVID-19 saliva test will help ensure a safe and productive semester for our entire university community,” said state University at Buffalo President Tripathi. We are very pleased to be able to host Upstate Medical and Quadrant Biosciences at UB.”
Added Upstate’s President Dewan: “This collaboration is a wonderful example of how members of the SUNY system can help one another, and we are very pleased to be a part of this important project. Upstate’s advances in saliva testing have proven to be accurate and fast so it makes great sense to utilize this critical technology in order to help our fellow SUNY institutions reopen safely and allow students to focus on the spring semester with a sense of safety and peace of mind.”
Upstate Medical and Quadrant Biosciences co-developed the Clarifi COVID-19 test, the world’s number one ranked saliva test according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The test is accurate for detection of all common strains of the virus, including the United Kingdom variant that has been found in New York and more than half of the United States. The test also detects asymptomatic cases, which is crucial for SUNY campuses to safely reopen in the spring. FDA approval of Upstate’s saliva test allows for additional laboratories to be used for testing analysis.
All students returning to campus are required to test negative for COVID-19 immediately prior to or upon return to campus, and students, faculty, and staff will be tested weekly throughout the semester primarily using Upstate’s saliva test to identify any new cases. Students testing positive may quarantine on campus housing or at their residence for the semester if living off-campus.
Both the individual test and the pooled test developed by Upstate Medical and Quadrant are done using saliva swabs rather than swabs inserted in a person’s nose.
Individuals administer the tests themselves by swabbing their mouths. Samples are given to Upstate Medical and combined into a pool, which is tested for COVID-19 virus. A negative test means that all 10-25 people in the group are presumed to be coronavirus-free at the time of testing.
A positive test for the pool requires each individual saliva sample within the pool to be tested again to pinpoint the positive case or cases. The rapid retesting does not require people in the positive pool to return to submit an entirely new sample. This greatly accelerates the process and expands testing capacity.