Scientist designs at home molecular Covid testing unit onboard his superyacht

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

A genius tech scientist who once won the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama has invented a revolutionary, one-hour, at-home Covid testing device that gives users results with superior accuracy for $39 – from the comfort of a lab on his $55 million yacht. 

Jonathan Rothberg, a DNA-sequencing pioneer who founded diagnostic testing company Detect in 2017, was barely one month into the pandemic when he decided to utilize his company’s tech to confront the then-looming coronavirus outbreak, riding out the pandemic in his superyacht The Gene Machine. 

In March 2020, the Connecticut-based scientist converted a lab he had curated on the lavish boat dedicated to environmental studies to a one intended to tackle the rapidly spreading contagion, by creating a more accurate, efficient, and cost-means of testing for the virus from home.  

Rothberg, 58, quickly raised $110 million from backers intrigued by his vision, and was able to hire a team of scientists and other staffers to aid in his crusade – all joining him on the 180-meter vessel. 

Already captaining a formidable crew in the makeshift satellite office, also enlisted the help of Silicon Valley fixture Hugo Barra, the former vice president of Google’s Android faction and Meta’s virtual reality divisions, and established a more conventional headquarters in Connecticut, where many of the employees now work. 

Soon enough, Rothberg’s company crafted a device consistent with the scientist’s vision, eponymously named Detect.

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

Detect’s testing kit utilizes molecular analysis technology to administer accurate test results, which users can access within an hour of an  initial test. The hub, the large device to 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 out the pandemic in his $55 million, 180-foot yacht, the Gene Machine

Rothberg came up with the idea for the Detect device while waiting out the pandemic in his $55 million, 180-foot yacht, the Gene Machine

The company promises that their creation offers much needed innovation to the current covid-testing climate, which has seen itself snarled by repeated instances of unreliable results, lengthy wait times, and astronomical costs. 

The Rothberg-pioneered Detect device, however, may address these concerns. 

An at-home covid test, Detect uses the advanced tool of molecular analysis instead of the more common – and oft-unreliable – antigen method. 

Recently released to the market last week after receiving emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, a Detect test can be bought on the company’s website for $75, for a pack that includes an electronic ‘hub’ used to read users’ Detect swab samples, as well as one individual Covid test. 

When purchased piecemeal, however, a hub is just $39, whereas a singular Detect Covid test used in conjunction with the machine costs a further $49. The company has already become a victim of its own success, with tests selling out on its website. It says supplies will be replenished at midday EST on December 26. 

Setting anchor in St. Barts for the holidays, Rothberg says he is still working relentlessly on the revolutionary tech, as the new threats of the Omicron and Delta variants of the virus now loom.

Christmas Eve saw total Covid infections edge closer to the all-time record with 261,339 new cases, up 10 per cent from Thursday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University published Friday. 

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

The Detect hub and 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 eventually see a day where consumers can test themselves at home for any malady, whether it be the flu or asexually transmitted diseases, effectively reshaping how doctors and scientists across the nation administer medical tests.  

‘The world has completely changed,’ Rothberg remarked to The Washington Post Friday. 

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

Meanwhile, publicly traded biomed firm also recently released a similar at-home covid test that also uses molecular analysis, and sees users get results within a half-hour later. Results are analyzed by Cue’s software and automatically sent to the user’s phone.

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

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

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

With that said, Detect’s testing kit and supplies are decidedly cheaper, with Cue readers costing $249, and a three-pack of Cue COVID tests running $225. A more premium option for users that offers full-time access to a doctor by videolink, meanwhile, costs an extra $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. 

While more costly than a conventional test, both Detect’s and Cue’s technology is extremely accurate, and can be utilized from the comfort of one’s own home. 

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

Currently, Rothberg says his firm is producing tens of thousands of tests each week, with aspirations to soon reach into the millions.   

‘You can do all this Googling at home, but you can’t get a good test,’ he said. ‘It shouldn’t be that way.’

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10344175/Scientist-designs-home-molecular-Covid-testing-unit-onboard-superyacht.html

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