Cybersecurity tool may help unlock rapid COVID-19 tests

Raytheon Intelligence & Space developing unique approach to portable COVID-19 testing

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., (June 25, 2020) — Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business (NYSE: RTX), is using a proven cybersecurity tool to develop a new point of care test for COVID-19. The inexpensive paper strip test will use saliva to provide a reliable diagnosis in 30-45 minutes without complex extraction procedures, labs, or equipment.  

The unique approach is being developed under an agreement with Purdue University, PortaScience Inc., Cortex Design Inc, and LaDuca LLC. Raytheon BBN Technologies, a Raytheon Technologies company, will contribute a tool originally developed to detect malware in network traffic.

“Raytheon is adapting cyber tools designed to sift through massive amounts of cyber data to detect COVID-19,” said Brad Tousley, president of Raytheon BBN Technologies. “Instead of detecting bad code on a network, we’re looking for the virus’ unique RNA sequences for Purdue to target in the test.”

Raytheon BBN Technologies will contribute a tool for DNA and RNA analysis that uses algorithms similar to those used to detect malware in network traffic.

Raytheon BBN Technologies created the tool, known as FAST-NA, through a contract with the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA. That program applied cybersecurity and artificial intelligence tools to rapidly screen for pathogens through DNA sequencing.

Purdue University is supplying expertise in paper-based tests and PortaScience is providing expertise in diagnostics manufacturing, distribution and commercialization. LaDuca LLC is providing regulatory expertise and Cortex is assisting with product design.

"This collaboration marks an important milestone, as we work to provide an affordable, reliable and scalable COVID-19 test," said Mohit Verma, an assistant professor in Purdue’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering "We are hopeful that this test will help address some of the barriers related to access — such as cost, availability, and convenience — that have prevented or delayed the diagnosis of COVID-19.”

The paper test will provide results in less than an hour with accuracy comparable to lab-based diagnostic tests. This easy-to-use saliva test could be used at point-of-care or in settings such as schools and corporations. The team will seek FDA Emergency Use Approval. 

Researchers or physicians who want more information or updates on this test should email: [email protected].

For questions or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Eric T. Mazzacone

[email protected]