Northwestern spinoff company receives $21.3 million grant to produce single-swab COVID-19 PCR test


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Minute Molecular Diagnostics will use the NIH grant to produce up to 1 million cartridges per month.

Yunkyo Kim, Campus Editor

Northwestern spinoff company Minute Molecular Diagnostics was awarded a $21.3 million grant from National Institutes of Health to produce pilot cartridges for a COVID-19 test that takes a single swab, according to a Monday University news release. 

The technology, called Diagnostic Analyzer for Specific Hybridization, was developed at the Center for Innovation in Global Health Technologies, where McCormick Prof. David Kelso and Director of Research Sally McFall co-led device development.

In addition to its easy application, DASH makes positive or negative test results available in 15 minutes. Users can perform a nasal swab, enclose the swab in a cartridge and insert it into a testing unit. 

Minute Molecular Diagnostics will use the NIH grant to produce up to 1 million cartridges per month, the release stated. 

“DASH performs point-of-care (polymerase chain reaction) testing for COVID-19 in approximately 15 minutes, providing an important, new tool for safely reopening K-12 schools, universities and workplaces,” Kelso said.

DASH can also be utilized at athletic events, international airline passengers and hospital admissions, the release stated.

The release also stated that DASH distribution is dependent on the receipt of Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has also been granted to COVID-19 vaccines. 

While it was intended to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Minute Molecular Diagnostics is working on expanding DASH technology to other infections, including flu, HIV, hepatitis C and several sexually transmitted infections. 

“DASH enables non-laboratory personnel to insert a nasal swab specimen directly into our test cartridge and then load the cartridge into the DASH instrument, providing an accurate result in about 15 minutes,” McFall said. “The simplicity of the DASH test allows PCR testing to go where antigen tests go now.”

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