COVID-19: Dunedin-developed rapid saliva test proves worth instantly as Kiwi entrepreneur heads to US

Entrepreneur Sir Ian Taylor is using a trip to the US to help the Government find ways to improve COVID-19 systems around travel bubbles, MIQ and home isolation.

Sir Ian is on a mission, heading overseas and going over and above current COVID-19 requirements to prove a point. 

"This test is going to trial a whole lot of things that we hope the Government will take notice of and show a way around MIQ, because it really is now unfit for purpose," Sir Ian said.

But it turns out he didn't even need to leave New Zealand to make his point, as the Spitfire6830 rapid saliva test, developed in Dunedin, has proven its worth straight away.

The test works by spitting into a specially designed cup, giving it a swirl, and placing the cup into a diagnostic machine. The best part is, your result comes back in under 30 minutes.

But this is where this story goes a little off the expected script. 

As part of the travel requirements, Sir Ian needed to have a negative result from the Ministry of Health within 72 hours of flying.

But he still didn't have his results back from a test carried out last Friday - and with just 45 minutes until he needed it, it appeared he wouldn't be going to the US after all. 

"It's now coming up to midday Monday, I've been upstairs, done a MicroGEM rapid test, got my results in 27 minutes. I still don't have the results from Friday," Sir Ian told Newshub.

Unfortunately for Sir Ian, those test results aren't recognised by the Government yet.

Auckland scientist Dr David Saul said the test is using gold-standard technology but it's made simple enough that it can be used by anybody.

Dr Saul is hoping the machine will have FDA approval within the week, and they will then trial the tests at three hospitals around the country. 

That's not fast enough for Sir Ian, who fortunately did get his negative result back with just minutes to spare. 

"It just highlights the need for a range of tests so that there are different ones that serve different circumstances and hopeful that highlights some of the other options that are around," he said.

Two negative results in hand, and one point proved that when it comes to travelling in this pandemic, time is of the essence.