Scientist at home designs Covid molecular test unit aboard his superyacht

Jonathan Rothberg, a DNA sequencing pioneer who founded diagnostic testing company Detect in 2017, invented a revolutionary at-home Covid testing device that gives users results for $ 39 in an hour

A genius scientist who once won President Barack Obama’s National Medal for Technology and Innovation has invented a revolutionary 1-hour at-home Covid test device that gives users results with superior accuracy for $ 39 – in the comfort of a lab on his $ 35 million yacht.

Jonathan Rothberg, a DNA sequencing pioneer who founded diagnostic testing company Detect in 2017, was barely a month after the start of the pandemic when he decided to use his company’s technology to make in the face of the then imminent coronavirus epidemic, overcoming the pandemic in his superyacht The Gene Machine.

In March 2020, the Connecticut-based scientist converted a lab he had hosted on the lavish environmental studies boat into a lab meant to tackle the rapid spread of contagion, creating a more accurate, efficient way to test. and economical for the virus in the house.

Rothberg, 58, quickly raised $ 110 million from donors intrigued by his vision, and was able to hire a team of scientists and other staff to help him on his crusade – all joining him on the 180 meter ship.

Already leading a formidable team in the makeshift satellite office, he also brought in Hugo Barra, former vice president of Google’s Android faction and Meta’s virtual reality divisions, and also brought in using a member from Silicon Valley, and established a more conventional headquarters in Connecticut, where many employees now work.

Fairly quickly, Rothberg’s company designed a device in line with the scientist’s vision, eponymously named Detect.

Detect's test kit uses molecular analysis technology to deliver accurate test results, which users can access within one hour of an initial test.  The hub, the big device on the left, costs $ 39, while the rest of the test supplies cost just $ 49

Detect’s test kit uses molecular analysis technology to deliver accurate test results, which users can access within one hour of an initial test. The hub, the big device on the left, costs $ 39, while the rest of the test supplies cost just $ 49

Rothberg came up with the idea for the Detect device while waiting for the pandemic on his $ 35 million, 180-foot yacht, the Gene Machine

Rothberg came up with the idea for the Detect device while waiting for the pandemic on his $ 35 million, 180-foot yacht, the Gene Machine

The company promises that their creation offers a much-needed innovation in today’s climate of covid testing, which has been scolded by repeated cases of unreliable results, long wait times and astronomical costs.

Rothberg’s pioneering Detect device can, however, address these concerns.

A home covid test, Detect uses the advanced molecular analysis tool instead of the more common – and often unreliable – antigenic method.

Newly released last week after receiving emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, a Detect test can be purchased from the company’s website for $ 75, for a pack that includes an electronic “hub” used to read user detection swab samples, as well as an individual Covid test.

However, when bought piecemeal, a hub costs just $ 39, while a single Detect Covid test used with the machine costs $ 49 more. The company is already a victim of its own success, with sold-out tests on its website. He says supplies will be restocked at noon EST on December 26.

As he drops anchor in St. Barts for the holidays, Rothberg says he’s still working tirelessly on the breakthrough technology, as new threats from the Omicron and Delta variants of the virus now loom.

On Christmas Eve, the total number of Covid infections nears the all-time record with 261,339 new cases, up 10% from Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University figures released on Friday.

The Detect hub and the Covid test went on sale last week after receiving a stamp of approval from the Food and Drug Administration

The Detect hub and the Covid test went on sale last week after receiving a stamp of approval from the Food and Drug Administration

He adds that he hopes to see a day when consumers can test themselves at home for any illness, be it the flu or sexually transmitted diseases, effectively remaking the way doctors and scientists everywhere. the country administer the medical tests.

“The world has completely changed,” Rothberg told the Washington Post on Friday.

“We now have telemedicine. People are taking control of their health. They don’t want to go to a lab and wait a week to get a test. And they don’t have to.

Meanwhile, a publicly listed biomedical company also recently released a similar home covid test that also uses molecular analysis and allows users to get results half an hour later. The results are analyzed by the Cue software and automatically sent to the user’s phone.

Detect, on the other hand, offers users results within an hour.

Rothberg, 58, received the National Medal for Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama in 2016 for his contributions to the field of biotechnology

Rothberg, 58, received the National Medal for Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama in 2016 for his contributions to the field of biotechnology

That said, Detect’s test kit and supplies are significantly cheaper, with Cue readers costing $ 249 and a three-pack COVID Cue test costing $ 225. A more premium option for users that offers full-time access to a doctor via video link, meanwhile, costs an additional $ 50 to $ 90 per month.

Cue tests are commonly used by professional sports leagues like the NBA and MLB to test their athletes for Covid.

Although more expensive than a conventional test, Detect and Cue technology is extremely precise and can be used in the comfort of one’s own home.

That said, the costs of using home molecular tests are currently not covered by insurance. However, Rothberg says he expects Detect’s price to drop once the scale of the company increases.

Currently, Rothberg says his company produces tens of thousands of tests every week, with aspirations to soon reach millions.

“You can do all of these searches on Google at home, but you can’t get a good test,” he said. “It shouldn’t be like that. “


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