UCLA SwabSeq | COVID-19 Diagnostic Test

UCLA Swab-Seq COVID-19 Diagnostic Test

UCLA has developed a novel COVID-19 diagnostic technology called Swab-Seq.  This technology uses the power of next generation sequencing to simultaneously process thousands of tests. The advantage of Swab-Seq is that it is highly accurate, scalable and inexpensive.  The core of the Swab-Seq technology received FDA Emergency Use Authorization approval in November 2020. Swab-Seq processes both saliva and swab tests using a RT-PCR assay and has an average turnaround time of less than 24 hours from the time a test arrives at the lab.

Swab-Seq Testing for Schools/Universities

The UCLA Swab-Seq Lab can provide highly accurate COVID-19 testing to schools and universities at inexpensive pricing due to the technology underlying Swab-Seq.  Both a swab and saliva test are available in the program.  In the school and university testing program, UCLA distributes COVID-19 test components including sample tubes and saliva funnels or swabs to perform the tests.  These are returned to UCLA where the tests are processed, returning results rapidly.  Software for collection sites, logistics, and return of results is provided by our partner, PreciseMDX which offers integration with school and university information systems.

Self Collected COVID-19 Kits

Swab-Seq supports self-collected tests.  On the UCLA campus, vending machines dispense COVID-19 testing kits to the campus population.  Students, staff and faculty utilize their smartphones to register their tests by scanning a QR code within the test kit.  Samples are dropped off in a drop off box next to the vending machine.

UCLA receives $13 million contract to expand COVID-19 testing.
Read more: 
Purchasing Covid-19 test Denise Heady/UCLA HEALTH + BEHAVIOR $13 million NIH contract will help UCLA expand COVID-19 testing

Saliva tet's collection video Test vending machine Testing kit









Testing Logistics and Information

Schools and Universities can organize their testing program in any way they want.  Schools can utilize self collection kits as described above where staff/teachers/faculty/students or parents will self collect the COVID-19 tests. Alternatively, schools can organize collection sites to collect the tests.  Software for managing collection sites with support for scheduling appointments is provided by PreciseMDX.


The PreciseMDX software allows for individuals to schedule their own tests and staff at collection sites to administer tests.  PreciseMDX also returns test results to individuals either through text or email.  In all collection strategies,  PreciseMDX enables the school to monitor the testing results over the entire school population.  

Tests are delivered either by courier to UCLA or sent through Fedex to UCLA. Test kit components are delivered directly to the schools.

The Swab-Seq Saliva Test is available for schools and universities at $20 per test (assuming a minimum volume) and further price reductions are possible at large volumes.

Please contact us if you are interested in testing with Swab-Seq by filling out this FORM.



The SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is an RNA virus. Fortunately, over the past 25 years, there have been tremendous advances in genomic sequencing technology, ever since the start of the Human Genome Project and these advances provide us with tremendously efficient and cost-effective ways to measure RNA. Swab-Seq directly leverages these technological advances to perform diagnostic testing.

Swab-Seq works by adding a barcode that acts as a unique "sticker" to each sample that is collected. Thousands of samples are then mixed together and the results are put into a genomic sequencing machine. The sequence generated from this mixture contains information from all of these samples. By looking at the barcodes or “stickers” in the resulting sequence, the technology can identify which samples contain evidence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Details of the Swab-Seq technology are in our paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering

Massively scaled-up testing for SARS-CoV-2 RNA via next-generation sequencing of pooled and barcoded nasal and saliva samples.

Bloom, J.S., Sathe, L., Munugala, C. et al. Massively scaled-up testing for SARS-CoV-2 RNA via next-generation sequencing of pooled and barcoded nasal and saliva samples.Nat Biomed Eng (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41551-021-00754-5

Latest paper: Lean Principles to Improve Quality in High-Throughput COVID-19 Testing Using SwabSeq: A Barcoded Sequencing-Based Testing Platform​

Janae Jones, BS, MS,  Rosita Saul, BS,  Laila Sathe, BS,  Joanna Xie, MD, Dawn Marquette, BS, MLS(ASCP),  Valerie A Arboleda, MD, PhD

The full Swab-Seq protocol is shown in the following videos:

UCLA Swab-Seq Pre PCR     UCLA Swab-Seq Post PCR  





The Swab-Seq lab also genomic sequences the positive samples to identify new SARS-CoV-2 variants. We have developed a novel SARS-CoV-2 sequencing protocol called V-seq.
Details of V-seq are available in the following preprint:

“Rapid cost-effective viral genome sequencing by V-seq”
doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.15.252510
Longhua Guo, James Boocock,  Jacob M. Tome, Sukantha Chandrasekaran, Evann E. Hilt, Yi Zhang, Laila Sathe, Xinmin Li, Chongyuan Luo,  Sriram Kosuri,  Jay A. Shendure,  Valerie A. Arboleda,  Jonathan Flint,  Eleazar Eskin, Omai B. Garner,  Shangxin Yang,  Joshua S. Bloom,  Leonid Kruglyak,  Yi Yin


"COVID-19 test offers solution for population-wide testing" | ScienceDaily

"UCLA's $10 Test Is Helping SoCal Schools Monitor Viruses as They Reopen" | dot.LA

"UCLA Health scientists pioneer faster and cheaper COVID-19 testing technology" | UCLA Health News


Fox News | Fox40Jackson | HealthNewsDigest | Earth Info Now | Voiceofthehwys | Univision 2

Frequently Asked Questions

I am interested in testing with Swab-Seq.  How would I deliver samples to UCLA?
There are two options to get samples to the UCLA Swab-Seq testing lab. They can either be delivered directly to UCLA via courier or sent through Fedex.

What does Swab-Seq provide in terms of supplies?
Swab-Seq provides and ships the salvia or nasal swab kits directly to your organization. The organization is responsible for returning them.

I am interested in testing with Swab-Seq. Do I need to be located near the UCLA campus?
No. You can be anywhere as long as you can send your samples through Fedex.

What types of tests does Swab-Seq support?
We support both a saliva test and a nasal swab test. The saliva test is ideal for universities/schools/workplaces and the nasal swab test is ideal for health care workers and patient care settings.

What support for information technology is provided by Swab-Seq?
We have partnered with PreciseMDX which is a fully integrated system to provide test scheduling, collection site administration, test results tracking and return of test results to patients.  

Does Swab-Seq bill insurance?
No, we do not bill insurance at this time. However, Precise MDX gathers all information that you would need to bill your patients. 

Do the Swab-Seq tests need to be administered by a healthcare professional?
No. Anyone the organization is comfortable with can oversee the specimen collection. 

Do the Swab-Seq samples need to be on ice?
Yes, the samples need to remain on ice after collection and during transport. Any storage that allows the samples to stay at 4-6C will suffice. 

Can Swab-Seq help us set up our testing site?
Swab-Seq can provide suggestions for and guidance around testing. We can also connect you with organizations already using our technology so that you can get the help you need. However, we are only providing kits and results at this time, we do not deploy a team to your location.

Who developed Swab-Seq?
The development of Swab-Seq is a collaboration between the Department of Human Genetics and the Department of Computational Medicine, UCLA Health and Octant.

Under what regulatory authority is the Swab-Seq test performed?
This is a laboratory developed test that is an nucleic acid amplification Test (NAAT) followed by sequencing to detect the virus. We perform RT-PCR using molecularly barcoded primer pairs unique to the SARS-CoV2 virus. The presence of the virus is then detected by next-generation sequencing technology. The UCLA Swab-Seq COVID-19 Testing Laboratory is certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA-88) as qualified to perform high complexity clinical laboratory testing. The CLIA identification number of the laboratory is 05D2198285.

How to Partner 

If you are interested in either the Swab-Seq technology or supporting Swab-Seq through philanthropy, please contact Eleazar Eskin (eeskin@cs.ucla.edu.) If you are interested in testing with Swab-Seq, please fill out the following FORM and we will contact you.