FDA Approves UI COVID-19 Saliva Test

By Bénédicte Yenyi Mulumba

On Monday, FDA granted UI  the federal Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its CovidSHIELD testing. This approval confirms that the test is accurate and efficient for broader use beyond the universities. The UI system developed the saliva-based COVID-19 test to keep all three campuses open for in-person classes since fall 2020.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced that he would allocate $20 million in CARES Act funding to expand the saliva test to Illinois’ 12 public universities and 48 community colleges under the FDA authorization. Of that money, $1 million will be used to purchase tests that will be distributed among schools under an agreement between the Illinois Department of Public Health and the UI system.

The million tests will be allocated based on a formula developed by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Each university has determined how it will handle COVID-19 testing for the spring semester, as was the case during the fall, but SHIELD Illinois provides a proven option, according to the university.

“My administration has been proud to work hand in hand with U of I since the earliest days of this development, which has had an enormously positive effect on keeping COVID-19 at bay in the U of I System, and we’re wasting no time in deploying this technology throughout the state. Even as we lead large-population states in vaccinations, widespread testing remains a critical tool in combating this pandemic,” said Gov. JB Pritzker.

In December, the university toped 1 million COVID-19 tests since initiating the program last summer. For the Spring semester, other institutions such as UW-Madison geared up for the launch of an entirely new COVID-19 response plan, inspired by the UI CovidSHIELD program. 

“The University of Illinois has been a national leader in innovation for decades, and the campus’ groundbreaking work to develop rapid, saliva-based COVID-19 testing is but the latest example of that tradition… I want to offer my gratitude to the scientists, researchers, and healthcare workers at U of I who worked quickly to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, helping save lives and protect our neighbors throughout Illinois.” Gov. JB Pritzker said.

No later than last Friday, Dr. King Li, the Dean of Carle Illinois College of Medicine commented on the saliva test not getting the EUA for traveling purposes, and here it is.

“look at the COVID response, faculties and students of our medical school have helped to develop the saliva test. Making the test available not just on the campus, but to other places in the local community, in the state, in the nation, in fact in foreign countries,” Dr. Li said.

Bénie Yenyi

Bénédicte “Bénie” Yenyi Mulumba is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. She's currently a member of UI7 Live and a researcher in political science department. She was an intern at the China Post when studying abroad in Taiwan. She worked as a news reporter for the Daily Illini, as a writer for Her Campus student-magazine and as an editor for The Spectator - which is Heartland Community College’s magazine. She’s a member of the Black journalists of Illinois chapter and a member of UNICEF. Bénie is fluent in French, English, and Lingala. She’s aspiring to be an international reporter and work with international organizations.