The ASU Biodesign Institute is using a rapid form of COVID-19 testing that has put it on the short list of innovators of 2020.

Arizona State University created these rapid tests just months after Gov. Doug Ducey announced that Arizona was in a state of emergency. Unlike the commonly used COVID-19 tests that utilize a nasopharyngeal swab, ASU uses saliva to determine the results. Joshua Labaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute, told Arizona Public Media that saliva tests might be even more accurate than nasal tests because the test taker produces the entire sample.

The saliva test also is less invasive and easier on the person taking it than the nasal swab exam. When people enter the testing area they are given a bag with a tube, a straw and a wipe. They are then directed to a cubby, where they sit down and spit into a straw that is placed inside the tube. Once the tube is half full, the test taker is done and walks over to a nurse, who accepts the tube. The saliva test results come back within 30 to 48 hours. Nurses and nursing students participate in the distribution of straws and testing tubes, as well the collection of the tubes when done. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.

“It’s quick and easy,” said Amanda Jackson, an ASU junior nursing student. “It makes test takers feel better because no one has to invade their privacy to give a test.”

Arizona State University was honored with the Innovator of The Year Award in the academia category at the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation on November 4. This was the  17th annual and first virtual celebration of the award. ASU is not a stranger to this award, as it was a finalist 14 times and won it 10 times previously.

The university plans to keep using the Biodesign Institute to administer the rapid saliva-based testing as the number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing in Arizona, as of press time. ASU provides the testing on all four campuses: Downtown, Tempe, West, and Polytechnic. To schedule a test, visit


Maryn Weeks is a student in Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


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