The University of Arizona will begin testing 250,000 of Arizona’s health care workers and first responders for COVID-19, as part of a new partnership with state government.
As part of the partnership, UA will receive $3.5 million in funding to produce blood tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies for the Arizona’s "front-line workforce."
"Determining whether a significant percentage of individuals have COVID-19 antibodies is critical to returning to regular social interaction," said Dr. Michael D. Dake, senior vice president for UA Health Sciences, in a news release. "Through what we hope would eventually be a comprehensive testing program, the university and local health care facilities could begin working toward reestablishing fully operational learning and working environments."
The antibody tests are built upon the work of UA immunobiology professor Janko Nikolich-Žugich and associate professor Deepta Bhattacharya. The test will help determine how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 and how many have built an immunity against it.
In turn, these tests can determine who is no longer in immediate danger from the virus, and provide a "pathway to developing therapeutics for COVID-19 patients."
This funding follows UA President Robert Robbins' announcement of intent to provide COVID-19 antibody tests to all 45,000 UA students and 15,000 faculty and staff. However, these student and faculty tests will be privately funded through donations.
“Antibody testing is not a cure-all, but learning more about it is an important step to identifying community exposure, helping us make decisions about how we protect our citizens, and getting us to the other side of this pandemic more quickly,” Gov. Doug Ducey said during the partnership's announcement.