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Coronavirus Test in Development by Gene Machine Superyacht Owner Jonathan Rothberg

19 March 2020By Miranda Blazeby

Jonathan Rothberg, the owner of 55 metre Amels superyacht Gene Machine, is developing a coronavirus home test kit that can tell if someone has Covid-19 within 30 minutes.

Rothberg first announced his intention to develop “a low cost, easy to manufacture home test kit of coronavirus” on Twitter on March 7, when he appeared to tweet from his lab on board Gene Machine.

After first describing the prospect of developing such as test as a “thought experiment”, Rothberg has ramped up his efforts to make it a reality.

He has tasked a group of scientists at Homodeus to develop the test. Homodeus is part of his company 4Catalyzer, which creates small medical devices, such as the Butterfly iQ, a handheld ultrasound tool that utilises smartphone technology.

He has also put a call out on Twitter for experts who have experience launching apps online and is working with the Bill Gates Foundation to develop the test.

Speaking to IEEE Spectrum, Rothberg said his team “is working around the clock to accomplish the goal”.

“I told my team that the Chinese built a hospital in Wuhan in 10 days so we should be able to develop and deploy a true home test for Covid-19 coronavirus in that time,” he said.

According to IEEE Spectrum, the test would be as simple as a pregnancy test and return a positive or negative result within 30 minutes.

The method would see people swab the inside of their nose or mouth and dip the swab in three tubes following instructions from an accompanying app. The altered colour of the third tube would indicate whether the person has coronavirus or not.

The person will then use their phone's camera to take a photo of the third tube and upload to the app, which will provide more information on the results.

The 55 metre Amels superyacht Gene Machine

Speaking to IEEE Spectrum, Rothberg said the test would detect the virus immediately, as soon as a person contracts it, and will immediately submit results to public health authorities.

If successful, Rothberg’s test will be sent to academic labs for validation before prototypes are sent to labs in the coming weeks.

“We are already in discussions with Penn and Yale to verify the test at their hospitals and clinical sites as quickly as possible,” Rothberg said.

To read BOAT International’s interview with Jonathan Rothberg on board his 55 metre superyacht, click here.

Jonathan Rothberg on board Gene Machine with two of his children