A Honolulu company is working overtime to develop an easy, cheap COVID-19 ‘spit test’

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Updated: Jul. 1, 2020 at 4:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scientists across the country are racing to create new, more effective ― and easier ― COVID-19 tests.

Among those in the development stages is Honolulu company Oceanit, which is working to create a prototype that tests spit for the virus.

They say it’s a game changer that could be ready by the fall.

At the Oceanit lab downtown, researchers are working around the clock on the project.

Pat Sullivan, CEO of Oceanit, said the company hopes to have its lateral flow assay or rapid spit test for COVID-19 ready by Aug. 1 and make it so simple an 8-year-old could use it.

The idea: Just spit into a tiny cup and the result is like a pregnancy test.

There’s no nasal swabs or blood draw and two faint lines on the stick show a positive test in five minutes.

"One line means the test is working properly. The other line means you've got COVID," said Sullivan.

It’s a scientific Shark Tank to find a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Institutes of Health is offering $1.5 billion for COVID-19 technologies and Oceanit is now competing against about 40 other U.S. companies for the prizes

"We've taken what I think is a couple years of work and compressed it into months," said Sullivan.

For testing, the company has been using proteins from the coronavirus.

"It's like cracking open a fruit. You can actually get the protein which is not contagious," said Sullivan.

Oceanit is partnering with the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine, which just got state Agriculture approval to import strains of the virus for research but doesn’t know when it could start testing.

Fall is quickly approaching, but Sullivan says he's got a plan to offer cheap mass tests to local airports, schools and businesses.

“To open up for tourism and keep people safe you need to be able to test people pretty much every day for a while,” he said.

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