Hawaii research and development firm Oceanit Laboratories has been invited to participate in a $1.5 billion federal initiative to advance quick, accessible, and novel COVID-19 tests.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notified the company that it will be able to participate in a Shark Tank–esque Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, making available up to $500 million in funding to companies that successfully pitch their technology to a NIH panel. Thousands of proposals have been submitted from around the world and will be whittled down to a handful of companies.

Oceanit’s novel COVID-19 testing approach requires no blood samples, nasal swabs, or lab equipment with days-long waiting times. The simple, safe, and reliable tests will provide results within minutes, not days, and will quickly enable wide-spread testing while a vaccine is still being developed.

“We proposed a simple ‘Spit-in-a-Cup’ that is fast, cheap and accurate, which could be used to simply test at home, at school, at work, or airports,” says Dr. Patrick Sullivan, Oceanit’s CEO.   “It doesn’t require any equipment and produces a result in about 10 minutes.

“However, using our Image AI app, the result could arrive even faster, perhaps in just a few minutes.  Our goal is to have this market-ready in a few months,” he adds.

At scale, the consumer cost of Oceanit’s COVID-19 spit test would be a few dollars per test and manufacturing could be ratcheted up quickly. The technology, developed by Oceanit, is a result of many years of research and development in Artificial Intelligence and genomics, and is being done in collaboration with multiple institutions, including the University of Hawaii, who has been an indispensable collaborator.

“We need all innovators, from the basement to the boardroom, to come together to advance diagnostic technologies, no matter where they are in development,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “Now is the time for that unmatched American ingenuity to bring the best and most innovative technologies forward to make testing for COVID-19 widely available.”

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