Training the next generation of RNA researchers in basic and translational science


The College of Art and Science’s RNA Institute has partnered with UAlbany’s School of Public Health to provide pooled surveillance testing to all students and staff on campus. The simple and non-invasive weekly test measures the presence of the virus using a saliva sample, collected by spitting in a test tube and then dropped off at a designated contactless station. Scientists then group four samples together, add a chemical solution and perform a sensitive PCR based assay to determine if SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA is present in the pooled samples. When a pool tests positive for virus, the four individual samples are re-tested to identify the one or more presumed positive in the pool. Individuals that are presumed positive in this non-diagnostic test are asked to isolate and obtain a diagnostic test as soon as possible.


UAlbany researchers conduct COVID-19 pooled surveillance testing at the RNA Institute on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. (photo by Patrick Dodson)


The RNA Institute’s saliva test is a hybrid of Yale SalivaDirect and the University of Illinois test, which has a false positive rate of less than 0.3%. The COVID-19 testing team (listed below) can process more than a thousand samples per day and has the capacity to test more than 5,000 samples per day. For more details on the program see


As of October 30th, over 17,000 saliva samples from the UAlbany community have been processed, with a presumed COVID-19 positivity rate below 0.5%.


The College of Art and Science

RNA Institute Pooled Surveillance Testing Team

Dr. Andrew Berglund, Director of the RNA Institute


Testing Program Coordinators

John Cleary

Tammy Reid


Lab Technicians

Asmer Aliyeva

Chaz Blackwood

Lindsey Jones

Claudia Lennon

Amy Mascorro

Amber Rieger

Sharon Shaughnessy

Gordon Torrington

Morgan Williams

CLICK HERE for COVID-19 related projects