OU Medicine to start COVID-19 virus testing – The Journal Record

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Joel Guthridge will lead a group of scientists from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation temporarily relocating to the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City to help speed the testing for COVID-19. (Courtesy photograph/OMRF)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Although testing kits for COVID-19 remain in short supply, OU Medicine and its academic partner, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, along with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, have launched a multifaceted strategy to begin testing samples on campus as soon as possible.

Thus far, OU Medicine has relied on the Oklahoma State Department of Health and national laboratories for all testing because testing kits are scarce and the supply chain backlogged. Those options are taking longer because more patients are seeking or needing testing; the turnaround for results is now three or more days. However, if supplies, such as nasal swabs and chemical reagents, become available, OU Medicine is prepped and ready to begin in-house testing, and could eventually test hundreds of samples a day.

“OU Medicine already has two testing platforms that have received emergency authorization to conduct testing on COVID-19 samples,” said Michael L. Talbert, chief of pathology services for OU Medicine. “OU Medicine laboratories are CLIA-certified, meaning we have undergone the rigorous certification process necessary to conduct tests on human samples. We are in dire need of testing supplies, but once we receive them, we can begin testing samples within three to five days.”

OU Medicine’s strategy involves immediate, intermediate and longer-term plans, as well as creating new options for testing by using instruments that typically would be used in research settings.

Immediate plans include running tests on the two existing platforms once supplies arrive. Emergency authorization should be granted soon for two other existing instruments, and OU Medicine plans to obtain an additional unit of one of the instruments. Combined, those four platforms could perform approximately 1,200 tests each day.

For its intermediate strategy, OU Medicine has ordered a new testing platform, and all necessary supplies, that could perform approximately 300 tests per day. This particular instrument is in high demand, Talbert said, but he hopes it will arrive within the next few weeks.

The longer-term strategy includes potentially acquiring another new testing platform that offers the ability to conduct testing at a faster pace; in this case, 384 tests every eight hours.

OU Medicine is also collaborating with its academic partner, the OU Health Sciences Center, and neighboring Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation to create and validate its own COVID-19 tests, using instruments that typically have been used for research projects.

OMRF scientists are teaming with the OU Health Sciences Center in an emergency effort to process COVID-19 tests. Led by Joel Guthridge, a team of OMRF scientists is temporarily relocating to OU Medicine, where they will operate a high-speed polymerase chain reaction system OMRF has moved there temporarily, as well as a new robot OMRF has purchased to help accelerate testing.

The goal of the effort is to increase the state’s testing capacity. When fully operational, OMRF and OUHSC scientists hope the facility will be able to process up to several thousand tests a day.

“Experts say Oklahoma’s numbers will increase dramatically when more testing becomes available,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, a physician and medical researcher. “The sooner we can get our arms around the true magnitude of this health crisis, the better we’ll be able to fight it.”

Testing will also help those worrying about whether they’ve contracted COVID-19.

“Knowing whether you have the virus could improve your chances of recovery,” said Prescott, “and aggressive quarantine measures can save others from contracting it.”