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UC Davis Health Partners With Allegiant Airlines' CEO To Create New COVID Rapid Test

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - What may look like a run-of-the-mill COVID-19 test is actually a new rapid test being worked out by UC Davis Health and Dr. Nam Tran.

The goal is to have a fast, cheap test and have a system to be able to do a multitude of tests at a given time.

"So, our technology is able to do 48 samples in 20 minutes. All 48 in that time period. So, that's much faster. You could have multiple instruments; you could automate it," Tran said. "And then we're talking hundreds of samples, as you go through people at an airport, at a school and so forth."

The university partnered up with Allegiant Airlines' CEO Maurice Gallagher, a UC Davis alumnus, to create this rapid test, which has efficacy in the high 90 percentiles for positive and negative COVID tests.

"It has the ability to test millions of people a day once we get it to the right place," Gallagher said.

Gallagher's startup company, SpectraPass, is aiming to bring this test to the public once approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, especially within industries hit hard by the pandemic.

"I'm not sure you couldn't say that the travel and tourism business wasn't the number one impacted industry. We just sat down and our revenues went to zero in a 30-day period." Gallagher said.

The technology behind the test is called a mass spectrometer.

"A swab sample gets put on a metal plate. A laser hits that plate where the sample and it vaporizes the proteins that are on there and it measures those different proteins," Tran said.

It's also using artificial intelligence so the testing machine can adapt to detect other diseases.

"When you hit the COVID sample with a laser with our mass spec hundreds of peaks show up. And a single human can't interrupt that. So, that's where we brought in machine learning," Tran said.

"As new diseases show up, we just train it on that and it's able to pick up on those diseases thereafter."

They're using technology to help resolve the current pandemic and possibly identify future ones.

"Not only could you set it up for current COVID but, you could set it up for future COVID. It's got power, it's got speed and it's got cost on its side," Tran said.

UC Davis said it still has a few more FDA hurdles to get over before the new rapid test can be issued for public use.

Tran said that the final cost for one of these new rapid test is less than $10.

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