Here’s something that sounds decidedly useful right now: A home test kit that anyone could use to see if they have the coronavirus. A kit that’s nearly as easy to use as a pregnancy test, and that would give results in half an hour.
It doesn’t exist yet, but serial biotech entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg is working on it.
We’ve heard from Rothberg before. Over the past two decades, he has founded several genetic sequencing companies that introduced breakthrough technologies, making genome sequencing faster and cheaper. (With one company he made news by sequencing the first individual human genome, that of Jim Watson; he sold another company for US $375 million.) In 2014, Rothberg launched a startup accelerator called 4Catalyzer dedicated to the invention of smart medical devices. The first company to emerge from the accelerator, Butterfly Network, now sells a handheld ultrasound tool that provides readouts on a smartphone screen.
Rothberg announced his interest in a coronavirus test kit in a Twitter thread on 7 March. Initially describing it as a “thought experiment,” it quickly became a real project and a driving mission.