COVID SAFE: saliva-based viral testing and screening program


Dear Colleagues,

I write to provide an update on important progress we are making on testing efforts across campus.  We continue to adapt to the challenges imposed by COVID-19 with creative, nimble, and collaborative ideas, from ramping up our viral testing capacity in both the clinical pathology lab in the hospital to developing a rapid and low-cost assay as part of clinical research in PSOM.  

Under the guidance of the Rapid Assay Task Force* and in partnership with the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation and Way to Health, led by Mitesh Patel, we are pleased to share the development of COVID SAFE, a new saliva-based viral testing and screening program to help identify and prevent the spread of new COVID-19 cases among members on campus.  This research study involves self-administered sample collection in Stemmler Hall, in close proximity to the testing and analysis lab being led by Arupa Ganguly.  Testing is about ready to begin, even as we work on improving the assay and scaling up to meet the needs of our community.

In the coming days, our PSOM essential personnel, including our housekeeping and animal care colleagues, will be invited to participate in COVID SAFE.  As we progress and scale-up (with the hope to provide support throughout the University), we plan to provide surveillance testing over time, with frequency of testing to be adjusted to the incidence of infection in our community (more infections, more testing). 

We strongly encourage everyone to participate.  If and when you receive an email inviting you to enroll, and you are going to be on campus, please sign up! 

I am thankful to the many people who have already contributed to this effort, from our call for equipment to stand-up the lab quickly to the personnel to support specimen processing to the volunteers who will participate in this study.  COVID SAFE is only one example – of many – of the incredible talents and collaboration of our community to find ways to improve public health.

All best,


* Thank you to the following members: Rick Bushman, Arupa Ganguly, Mitesh Patel, Haim Bau, Roberto Bonasio, Jon Epstein, Mike Feldman, Dan Rader, Jonathan Schug, Ophir Shalem, Christoph Thaiss, Greg Van Duyne, Ben Abella


Jon Epstein, MD | EVD/CSO

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