Scientists across the University of Arizona are working to give American public health authorities the ability to test widely for COVID-19 by making more specimen collection kits available. Over the weekend, researchers at UArizona produced 1,600 COVID-19 specimen collection kits.
The UArizona Health Sciences Biorepository, a team of scientists, has secured the materials to produce 7,000 coronavirus specimen collection kits this week. A significant shortage of kits nationally and regionally has limited the ability to test patients for the virus.
"Fortunately, our personnel at the Biorepository have several decades of experience in creating biospecimen collection kits for use in FDA-approved analyses and clinical applications," said biorepository director David Harris, who was one of the first scientists to create cord blood stem cell collection kits that have become commonplace in most hospitals today.
Harris says the lack of collection kits, specifically the swabs and the medium in which samples are collected, has created the bottleneck in widespread testing. The specimen collection kits consist of two critical elements: the swab and the medium that secures the sample.
Researchers at the University of Arizona BIO5 Institute manufactured the media – the second critical element of the collection kit. Working from a formula provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the scientists were able to create five liters of media, which was enough for 1,600 specimen collection kits.
"Quite frankly, we're not trying to develop anything novel or even particularly advanced," said Ryan Sprissler, staff scientist and manager of the University of Arizona Genomics Core, or UAGC. "We're trying to meet a critical need, which, right now, means making collection tests more readily available."
"One of the core purposes of a high quality research university is to ensure we are able to make material differences in our communities," said Betsy Cantwell, senior vice president for research and innovation. "This pandemic tests all of our lives, and having the capacity to rapidly convert the amazing research capacities that we have at the University of Arizona into support for critical needs during this COVID-19 outbreak is exactly why we are here."