Amid Shortage of COVID-19 Collection Kits, UArizona Scientists Race to Make More

University researchers produced 1,600 COVID-19 specimen collection kits over the weekend.

The University of Arizona 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.

The University of Arizona Health Sciences Biorepository has secured the materials to produce 7,000 coronavirus specimen collection kits this week. Pictured are (L-R): Ryan Finnel, Ayman Sami, Simran Sahnan, Jose Camarena and Michael Badowski, PhD, lab manager for the Harris Lab (Credit: University of Arizona/David Harris).“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, PhD, who was one of the first scientists to create cord blood stem cell collection kits that have become commonplace in most hospitals today.

Dr. Harris, biorepository executive director, a professor of immunobiology and medicine, and a member of the UArizona BIO5 Institute, 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.David Harris, PhD

BIO5 researchers manufactured the media – the second critical element of the collection kit. Working from a formula provided by the U.S. 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, PhD, staff scientist and manager of the UArizona Genomics Core, or UAGC. “We’re trying to meet a critical need, which, right now, means making collection tests more readily available.”

Working from a formula provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, university scientists produced 1,600 specimen collection kits this weekend (Credit: University of Arizona).“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, PhD, UArizona 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.”

For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university’s COVID-19 webpage.

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NOTE: Photos and video available upon request.

This story originally appeared on the UA News website.

About the University of Arizona BIO5 Institute
The BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona connects and mobilizes top researchers in agriculture, engineering, biomedicine, pharmacy, basic science, and computational science to find creative solutions to humanity’s most pressing health and environmental challenges. Since 2001, this interdisciplinary approach has been an international model of how to conduct collaborative research, and has resulted in disease prevention strategies, promising new therapies, innovative diagnostics and devices, and improved food crops. For more information: BIO5.org (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram | LinkedIn).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).