Minnesota announces plans for rapid saliva test lab

Minnesota announces plans for rapid saliva test lab Photo: WDIO/MGN

Associated Press contributed to this report
Created: August 25, 2020 02:26 PM

MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota plans to more than double its coronavirus testing capacity by partnering with a national distributor of a rapid saliva test and establishing a new lab to process the results. The governor's office says the state is finalizing a $14.7 million deal with Rutgers University-based RUCDR Infinite Biologics, which offers the country’s first saliva COVID-19 test, and Vault Health, which will help carry out the tests.


State officials hope to have the new lab in the St. Paul suburb of Oakdale in operation by October. According to the governor's office, will have the ability to more than double the state’s current test processing capacity. 

“Public-private partnerships are the key to success in our state’s effort to combat COVID-19,” Governor Walz said in a press release. “We’ve come a long way on testing thanks to our work with the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and our state’s health systems, but we’re looking to make COVID-19 tests even more accessible. That’s why we’re excited to announce a new, innovative partnership with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics that will further expand Minnesota’s testing capacity. This means more options for Minnesotans looking to get tested, and more diverse capabilities in terms of our overall strategy should we ever run into supply shortages or other hurdles down the road.” 

According to the press release from the governor's office, the new saliva lab will be capable of processing as many as 30,000 samples a day, if running 3 shifts. At full capacity, it would also create up to 250 jobs.  The rolling average of PCR COVID-19 tests processed daily in Minnesota labs is just under 14,000 a day.

The state says there will likely be three ways to access a saliva test.

  • First, the state will set up 10 semi-permanent sites. Any Minnesotan will be able to come to these sites to perform the saliva test. Each semi-permanent location will create 15-20 temporary jobs for Minnesotans.
  • Second, the state and other partners will be able to offer the test in mobile testing events. The saliva test requires much less PPE than a traditional swab for COVID-19 because it is self-collected under the supervision of a health professional.
  • Third, Vault Health also provides logistics and telehealth services to perform the saliva test at home.

The state has not yet defined the parameters of a mail-order testing program. View the process here.

“Research on the efficacy of all COVID testing is ongoing,” Kris Ehresmann, Director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology with the Minnesota Department of Health said in the release. “The recent studies on saliva testing show it to be as effective as the nasal swab testing method. There are a lot of different options on the market, but we believe this saliva test is a particularly sensitive and accurate test, based on the research results so far.”

The funding is provided by the state’s federal CARES Act funding.


Associated Press contributed to this report

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