Stanford University along with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and a group of collaborators have created a low-cost system to collect samples for COVID-19 testing and monitor populations for the disease.
The technology, known as Vera, is a ready-to-use software and testing platform that enables virtually any organization — from universities to public health departments — to create their own broad testing and surveillance programs. These programs could help protect schools and vulnerable communities by enabling testing for individuals at scale.
Vera was created as part of a public-private partnership between Stanford and several other institutions, including the CZ Biohub and Microsoft. It was designed as an expanded testing platform that’s nationally scalable, rapidly deployable and more affordable than other current options. In the hope that the platform can aid in the effort to reopen schools, workplaces and communities more broadly, Stanford intends to make it available, under noncommercial terms, to academic institutions, public health departments, laboratory providers and other organizations interested in offering expansive testing.
Institutions wanting more information can visit https://vera.stanford.edu.
“The launch of this platform is a prime example of how Stanford University and industry partners can come together to help during this unprecedented time,” said Jeff Raikes, chair of the Stanford University Board of Trustees. “Collaborations like this are critical to addressing the challenges and complexities of the COVID-19 world.”
“Since the early days of this pandemic, Stanford has recognized how crucial testing is, and will continue to be, as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “The Vera platform is a step forward in our goal to support widespread testing to individuals not just in our community, but throughout the country.”
Vera integrates several components, including a customizable enrollment system; a self-swabbing kit, which requires users to swipe only the inside of their nostrils, rather than have the back of their upper throats swabbed (which has to be done through the nose); and a secure user portal that delivers results and options to follow up with a health-care professional. The platform also supports a variety of self-testing technologies, laboratory providers and user enrollment and survey tools.
“This platform exemplifies how we can bring scaled testing to communities and industries across the country and leverage that as a tool to start thinking about how we can safely and affordably reopen,” said Stephen Quake, DPhil, the Lee Otterson Professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford and co-president of the CZ Biohub. “It’s a terrific collaborative effort, and it owes a lot to the pioneering work on the ‘swab and send’ home testing model done by the University of Washington’s Brotman Baty Institute.”