URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s the end of an era at the University of Illinois.
With the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly in the past, the University of Illinois has announced that it is ending operations for its Shield T3 testing program before the year ends.
The program, a for-profit entity, was started in 2020 to develop a saliva-based COVID test. This test was meant to ensure a safe return to campus for the thousands of students who were sent home at the start of the pandemic earlier that year.
But with the pandemic no longer considered a public health emergency and with a decline in the volume of COVID tests being processed, the program is planning to wrap up its business.
William Jackson, executive director at Discovery Partners Institute with the U of I system, said between now and when testing started, Shield T3 processed over 5 million tests.
At one point, Jackson said they processed hundreds of thousands of tests weekly. Now, that number is 500.
“It’s a testament of what can be done when you bring together multi-disciplinary activities,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t one thing that made the test great, it was many things and many people.”
Jackson credited the University of Illinois system, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the governor’s office as well for their support.
After successful implementation in the U of I system, Shield T3 began moving to implement its test beyond the U of I system, starting with Northern Illinois University, then Millikin University. High school and middle school students in the area were able to start using the tests in the spring of 2021, followed by students across the remainder of the state and the public at large by the summer.
“Shield T3 provided lifesaving testing during the most challenging periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking our revolutionary and reliable SHIELD test and making it available to many millions of people across the country and around the world,” U of I system President Tim Killeen said in a statement. “When Illinois and the world needed us most, the U of I System answered with SHIELD and Shield T3. I am incredibly proud of all of those who worked to make this happen.”
The conclusion of Shield T3’s operations will require a vote of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. The vote is expected at the Board’s regular meeting in November; if approved, the program will shut down completely by the end of December.