WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue University announced Friday (July 17) an innovative partnership with Rutgers University and Vault Health to test students for COVID-19 via a reliable and convenient, medically-supervised saliva screening that can be done in their homes. The test is the first FDA EUA-authorized solution of its kind and is currently a testing solution for many national companies, as well as sports leagues such as the National Hockey League, the PGA Tour, and Major League Soccer.
Through the collaboration with Vault Health, Purdue undergraduate, graduate and professional program students will be instructed on how to order and receive their free at-home test, to be performed through a secure video visit supervised by a Vault Health practitioner, eliminating the need for nasal swabbing and the potential risk of exposure to others involved with in-person sample collection.
Purdue students who have elected to take on-campus classes this fall will receive an email when their time to return to campus approaches outlining the steps to register for the testing program with Vault Health. After receiving one’s testing kit in the mail, the telehealth visits may begin, but should be completed no sooner than 14 days before traveling to campus to move into a residence hall, participate in an on-campus activity or begin classes. Test results will be sent directly to the student via email, within 48-72 hours after the kit arrives back to Vault Health for processing. A copy of the test result will also be sent to the Protect Purdue Health Center. Those testing positive will receive guidance from the PPHC and should not travel to West Lafayette or come to campus for any reason until they isolate for 14 days and are medically cleared by the PPHC.
“Our very first goal is to reduce to as close to zero as possible the number of people who come to our community with the virus,” said Dr. Esteban Ramirez, chief medical officer at the Protect Purdue Health Center. “Even at a very low percentage of positive cases, this will enable us to intercept a substantial number of people who have the virus before they ever arrive in West Lafayette. This approach also allows us to start the academic year by knowing what our baseline of infection is for students coming back to campus in the event we need to adapt, a hallmark of the Protect Purdue plan.”
The saliva sample will be run at Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics lab. Under the leadership of professor Andy Brooks, Rutgers RUCDR was the first lab to receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA for the saliva method to test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus using a technique called qPCR. The RUCDR Infinite Biologics lab is currently capable of processing 100,000 tests daily.
“The logistics of testing all students coming back to campus with enough time to turn around test results before their arrival meant we had to collaborate with partners capable of overcoming these challenges,” said David Broecker, chief innovation and collaboration officer at Purdue Research Foundation and implementation leader for the overall Protect Purdue plan. “Vault Health and Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics lab are among the best at what they do. This is what we wanted for our students.”