Entrepreneurs and academic gene jockeys are hatching schemes for population-level coronavirus testing.
Rothberg is a high-energy biotech entrepreneur who has been trapped in quarantine on his super-yacht, the Gene Machine, since mid-March, when we first reached him by phone. The creator of a fast DNA sequencing machine and, more recently, a revolutionary cheap ultrasound wand, Rothberg had been cruising in the Caribbean when the pandemic hit.
“I was on vacation and suddenly the world blew up,” he says. It didn’t take long for him to come up with a plan. He was walking by the small lab on his boat when he decided what to do. “I said, why don’t we figure out how to do this whole testing thing at home?” Rothberg recalls. Since then, he has been directing a team of about 60 at one of his companies, HomoDeus, to try to create an at-home genetic test for the virus.
Right now, gene tests—the most accurate kind—are run only in labs or on special hospital instruments. But Rothberg’s is one of several attempts to create a test that’s simple, foolproof, and cheap enough for anyone to do at home.
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