Rapid COVID Tests on Campus

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Technion President Professor Uri Sivan and Professor Naama Geva-Zatorsky

First in Israel – a COVID-19 test developed at Technion offers rapid testing on campus to prevent chains of infection

While Israel undergoes a mass vaccination program, the ongoing window of risk is being closed at Technion through an innovative system of rapid testing for COVID-19. The Technion announced the extensive testing operation as a fundamental protective measure for dormitory residents. The “NaorCov19” test being used in Haifa was developed in April 2020 by Professor Naama Geva-Zatorsky of the Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.

“To protect the health of campus visitors and residents, to lead as normal a lifestyle as possible, and to return to routine life during the pandemic, it is necessary to break the chain of infection rapidly, through effective monitoring and diagnosis,” said Technion President, Professor Uri Sivan. “Living alongside COVID-19 is an enormous challenge for all the population, and I hope and believe the rapid implementation of the novel technologies developed by Technion researchers will assist us in arresting the spread of the virus, and that it will serve as a model for other places across the country.”

The technology has been commercialized by the Technion for further development by Rapid Diagnostic Systems ltd., which is developing the molecular diagnostic platform under the name “Naor.” (www.naordia.com). The technology had been field tested and developed in collaboration with multiple institutions and researchers including MAFAT (the R&D arm of the Israeli Ministry of Defence) and the Rambam Health Care Campus.

The NaorCov19 test rapidly detects the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is based on a saliva sample and a short isothermal process that can be done on-premises. The process takes less than an hour if done on site, and dozens or even hundreds of samples can be processed simultaneously. Technion students and staff leave saliva samples at stations around campus and use their phones to record it. They are then electronically notified about the results within a few hours of the sample collection. The Technion community members are encouraged to be tested at least once a week, in order to reduce the risk of campus infection.

Thanks to its simplicity, the NaorCov19 is suitable for rapid testing on campuses and schools, at workplaces, airports and even onboard airplanes. It is also scheduled for self-testing at home.
The on-campus Naor tests are being performed as part of a study that has received the approval of the local institutional review board (IRB).

At the start of the 2020-21 academic year, the Technion administration announced the “Creating an Open and Safe Campus” initiative, which offers multi-layered protection of campus visitors.

The First Layer is strict adherence to the “purple badge” rules: wearing a mask, hygiene, and social distancing.

The Second Layer involves the monitoring of the campus sewage system using novel technology developed at Technion by Professor Eran Friedler of the Department of Environmental and Water Engineering. Sewage testing supports the monitoring of a large population, effectively and rapidly locating cases without the need to reach each individual. It has already effectively disrupted potential chains of coronavirus infection.

The soon to be implemented Third Layer is the Technion-developed “NaorCov19” test. This individual, rapid, and non-invasive system will help track and diagnose cases on campus.

The Fourth Layer involves regular PCR tests for those who have relevant symptoms or who test positive on the “NaorCov19” test. Since the “NaorCov19” test is still waiting for the approval of Israel’s Ministry of Health, persons who test positive go on to take a regular PCR test for confirmation.

The “Creating an Open and Safe Campus” project is led by Executive Vice President for Research Professor Koby Rubinstein, Professor Avigdor Gal of the Faculty of Industrial Engineering & Management and Professor Danny Raz of the Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science.