UC Merced creating several tools to combat COVID-19

Local News

One of them is a rapid COVID-19 antibody testing platform

MERCED, California (KSEE) — Every year, several University of California schools receive technology grants to address major issues. This year, all of the projects are focused on COVID-19.

COVID-19 antibody testing effectiveness is still somewhat in doubt, with public health experts and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration still trying to regulate the saturated market of tests.

But, for three UC Merced professors — Dr. Wei-Chun Chin, Dr. Jennifer Lu and Dr. Changqing Li — their mission is to develop a rapid response COVID-19 antibody test.

It’s one of four UC Merced projects awarded seed grant funding from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute. Other participating campuses include UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC Santa Cruz.

It’s been difficult without having immediate access to their campus labs, but the team of three has been working on several ideas — like expanding antibody testing from blood to saliva.

“For saliva collection, it’s much, much easier. You don’t need a particular person or technician to take the sample,” said Chin.

Making the testing platform readily accessible is another aspect they hope for.

“Kind of small size, portable, low-cost, and have a fast response,” Li said of the desired characteristics. “We hope we can invent something [that can be used] at home.”

The turnaround for the projects will be fast, with some expected to show results by the end of summer. The idea for all of them — quick impact to mitigate the pandemic.

“We really want to make a contribution to our local community, the United States, as well as to the global effort to combat this disease,” said Lu.

Another UC Merced project is looking to create a low-cost sanitizer for various applications.

In total, 25 projects were selected out of 97 proposals. An anonymous donation of $1.6 million helped give funding to more projects than normal.

You can find out more about the other projects here.

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