FDA issues emergency-use authorization for U of I COVID-19 test

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday it has authorized the emergency use of a COVID-19 saliva test developed by the University of Illinois.

Despite the lack of FDA approval until Monday, officials said the test, known as covidSHIELD, has been used more than 1.5 million times at the university’s campuses in Urbana, Springfield and Chicago. University officials also said that because the test had been properly lab-certified, dozens of organizations around the world were sold the test, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, American University and a Toyota plant in Kentucky.


In a statement, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the emergency-use authorization unlocks federal COVID-19 funding to provide 1 million tests to public universities in Illinois.

"Even as we lead large-population states in vaccinations, widespread testing remains a critical tool in combating this pandemic, and I’m dedicating $20 million in CARES Act funding to provide 1 million tests to Illinois’ other public universities under the FDA’s emergency use authorization," Pritzker said in a statement.

There has been interest in using the test by school systems, universities and corporations because the process is less invasive that the nose-swab method and results can be obtained within 24 hours.

Jay Walsh, the university’s head of economic development and innovation, said he expects to talk with local school districts, companies and other state entities that are interested in procuring tests.

The university first unveiled the tests in August and prematurely announced it earned FDA approval. It walked back the statements and officially applied for approval in December.

News of the FDA’s approval of the test comes as the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 1,143 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 20 new deaths. Health officials report nearly 102 million coronavirus cases, including 20,536 deaths.