UMGC helps to launch COVID-19 diagnostic test

In less than a week – working around the clock – the UMN Genomics Center (UMGC), in collaboration with the UMN Medical School, the Molecular Diagnostics lab, and Fairview, has set-up FDA-approved clinical testing for COVID-19 at their BLS2 and CLIA-certified lab in the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building. The overall clinical project was led by Dr. Sophia Yohe of the Department of Lab Medicine and Pathology, who serves as the Medical Director of the UMGC’s CLIA lab.

COVID Testing

Beginning work on Tuesday, March 17th, the UMGC’s clinical and infectious disease partners focused on virus inactivation and extraction workflows in the neighboring Microbiology Research Building, while scientists from the UMGC applied their experience in high-throughput genomics, automation, and LIMS development to develop a scalable, sensitive RT-qPCR assay workflow that amplifies two regions of the inactivated virus. Five days later, on Sunday, March 22nd, a streamlined clinical test – with the fastest turnaround in Minnesota – was up and running. Although there is currently a national shortage of RNA extraction supplies and other key reagents, the UMGC’s testing infrastructure was set-up to accommodate thousands of tests a day and operate 24/7 when reagents are more readily available.

In addition to the clinical COVID-19 testing, the UMGC Innovation Lab is developing methods for sequencing-based viral genome surveillance, expedited RNA isolation to relieve supply and labor bottlenecks, and point-of-care diagnostic systems for rapid turnaround.

Watch the KSTP report for more on the COVID-19 testing efforts at the UMGC and across the University.