SJSU Alumni Develop Test for Rapid COVID-19 Results

Two San Jose State University alumni are part of the team that developed the first rapid COVID-19 test that delivers results in 45 minutes.

David Persing

David Persing, ’79 Biochemistry, is one of two SJSU alumni working at Cepheid to develop a COVID-19 diagnostic test. Photo: David Schmitz.

Dr. David Persing,‘79, Biochemistry, and Rich Nolasco, ‘08, Mechanical Engineering, work for Sunnyvale-based Cepheid. The molecular diagnostic testing company announced on March 21 that it has received emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its SAR-CoV-2 Xpert Xpress test. It is the first rapid COVID-19 test that can be administered at point-of-contact locations, such as hospitals, emergency rooms and urgent care centers, and delivers rapid results.

Persing is the executive vice president, chief medical and technology officer for Cepheid. He explains in this video how the COVID-19 rapid test works and why it’s so important.

Persing graduated from SJSU with a degree in biochemistry and then earned an MD-PhD in genetics. He founded the Mayo Clinic’s Molecular Microbiology Laboratory. Eventually, he left academia to focus on cancer and infectious diseases in the biotech industry. In an interview with Washington Square Magazine in 2019, Persing said “It was gratifying to treat one patient at a time, but I ultimately decided I needed to amplify the impact of my research and touch the lives of many people simultaneously.”

Richard Nolasco

Richard Nolasco, ’08 Mechanical Engineering, is a member of a team at Cepheid working on a COVID-19 diagnostic test. Photo: Courtesy of Rich Nolasco.

SJSU alumnus Rich Nolasco graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and works as a failure investigation engineer at Cepheid.

“When I joined the Cepheid team in late 2015, I knew that the company and my work directly affected lives around the world in a positive way,” said Nolasco. “When I found out that Cepheid was coming up with a test to detect the virus, I knew it would make a huge and positive impact.”

Cepheid expects to begin rolling out the COVID-19 rapid test at the end of March.