MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As the demand for coronavirus testing increases, researchers are working around the clock to make the process quicker and more efficient.

A team of biomedical researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is among those leading the way in developing a rapid-test to detect COVID-19.

Dr. Sylvia Daunert is Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She says her lab has created a test that would tell patients whether or not they have coronavirus in a fraction of the time it takes now. Instead of days, they can get an answer in half an hour.

She says this is unique because it is known as a “point-of-care” test. That means it can be done right on-site, instead of having to go to a particular lab or hospital.

“You can use it in any type of location, without instruments or very trained personnel,” Dr. Daunert explains. She says it would be ideal for the new mobile test locations, pharmacies, and, possibly one day, TSA at airports.

Their team of scientists could develop the rapid-test relatively quickly because of a template they had already created years ago.

“We started developing this platform when we had the Zika outbreak two, three years ago now. The Zika outbreak motivated us to have a vision to think this may work for Zika, but we should be ready if there is another outbreak.”

Similar to a test for strep throat, the new test would only require a simple throat swab. It delivers on-the-spot results in under 30 minutes, making it more user-friendly and cost-effective.

“If you immediately know if you are infected, and in this case, we would be able to screen many more people than we are doing now,” explains Daunert, “Then certainly you can isolate those people even within a family and try to prevent from infecting others.”

By letting patients know as soon as possible, it could, in turn, help stop the spread to others.

Dr. Daunert says the FDA has an expedited procedure for approval, which should take about two weeks. If ultimately approved, they hope to make thousands available here in Florida.

UM is also working with the North Carolina company Heat Biologics in order to develop a Coronavirus vaccine.

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Karli Barnett

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