Three ways to prepare for the next pandemic | Medicine School


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Three ways to prepare for the next pandemic

ARDL Minnesota Utility Introduces New Model for Laboratory Operations

Reading time: 4.5 minutes


Nearly a year ago, as most communities passed stay-at-home orders and hospitals rushed into action, an unsettling calm raged in the halls of university research labs which, unless ‘they weren’t fighting COVID-19, had to temporarily shut down.

One of those labs at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine began to notice a rapid decline in the number of incoming samples. The Advanced research and diagnostic laboratory (ARDL), which for 30 years was one of the few in the United States to offer clinical laboratory testing services to researchers, quickly saw the value of slowing their 21,000-installation of square foot.

“We normally get thousands of samples from all kinds of research institutions that are recruiting across the country, and then they send all of the samples to us for testing at one facility,” explains Amy Karger, MD, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and Director of COVID-19 Tests at ARDL. “A lot of our activities were slowing down or stopping because research studies across the country were suspended. This created this unique situation where we had a laboratory and highly trained staff who did not do their usual job of research testing and were then available to work on the COVID-19 tests and put them into operation in the ARDL. “

And, they did. A few weeks after the start of the closure, the ARDL, in collaboration with another research center on campus, had developed two in-house tests – one PCR and serology, or antibody testing – which helped provide some of Minnesota’s very first statewide testing capabilities. At their peak, they analyzed 10,000 samples per day. And, due to this early work and leadership on the ground, ARDL is now one of four institutions serving as a capacity building center for the Serological Sciences Network (SeroNet), a major component of the National Cancer Institute’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to develop, validate, improve and implement serological testing and associated technologies.

Success, however, has not come without challenges. Dr Karger shares them and discusses three ways university research labs can prepare to serve their state for the next pandemic or outbreak:

Now build stronger collaborations within your academic medicine institution between clinical and basic science researchers to ensure quick access to expertise and resources when you need them.

Train your staff in several testing methods to overcome supply chain issues. And, work with your lab managers now to put in place a quick hiring plan for the future.

Establish intrastate partnerships between research institutions and your state health department now and advocate for a plan, including additional space.

Now build stronger collaborations within your academic medicine institution between clinical and basic science researchers.

“The U of M medical school and basic science researchers were somewhat separated before the pandemic. Many of us haven’t really interacted with basic science researchers, but this pandemic has really brought us together, ”said Dr. Karger.

ARDLThe PCR and serology tests developed by the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto have only materialized through unique partnerships and the awareness of a certain expertise among the faculty. For example, Fang Li, PhD, of the College of Veterinary Medicine, had the know-how to produce the key ingredient needed for serological testing – a SARS-CoV-2 protein.

Basic science lab spaces that were scheduled to close freed up space to make room for additional testing efforts, allowing Minnesota’s first statewide PCR testing efforts to kick off within weeks of the first cases. state reported COVID-19.
These same research labs were also able to provide much of the supplies and chemicals we needed for early PCR testing and have distributed additional PPE to our labs and hospitals, ”says Dr Karger. There has been a lot of cross-collaboration between the U of M medical school and our basic science researchers to get things done quickly.

Train your staff in several testing methods to overcome supply chain issues. And, have a quick hiring plan.

Beyond the need for supplies, Dr Karger said his team also needed to quickly change their mindset to meet the demand. With thousands of COVID-19 samples pouring in day in and day out, all requiring a quick response in 48 hours or less, she remembers the feeling of new pressure she and her team were under.

“They wanted the results to be released ASAP, so we really had to change our mindset to take academically minded tests that didn’t really have much of the time pressure associated with taking tests. large volume where we had to do it as quickly as we could, ”says Dr. Karger. “It took a lot of staff training to deal with the thousands of samples going through the door. It was a huge number of samples and boxes, which arrived one after the other. It was overwhelming.

She encourages working with the lab manager to develop a quick hire plan – a plan that explains how you can hire large numbers of people quickly while still effectively training them to perform required tasks. During these training sessions, Dr Karger says they taught each staff member how to perform a test in different ways. This, she said, was key to overcoming supply chain issues.

“I think the labs that had the most problems were the ones that were stuck with one method or one instrument, and then they were really at the mercy of a manufacturer. We validated our testing methods using a variety of different options for supplies, so that if something was missing we could turn to something else, ”says Dr. Karger. “It creates a certain expertise in skills that we would not normally have developed in these employees. So if we ever find ourselves in a situation where we run into obstacles in doing the lab work, I imagine our staff will now be better equipped to come up with multiple ways of doing something based on that experience. “

Partner with your state’s health department now and advocate for a plan, including extra space.

ARDLDr Karger acknowledges that not all states have a facility similar to the ARDL, and she attributes part of their success to how fortunate they had this ready-made space, available staff and the unique expertise of the faculty. Still, she thinks it’s possible that an intra-state collaboration between academic research institutions and their state’s health department is now starting to envision how the two (or more) entities might work together to serve the Status during a future pandemic or epidemic.

“Start with your state’s health department and discuss the possibility of doing something coordinated,” says Dr. Karger. “We were fortunate in our state to be the ones to initiate this conversation with us, and we were happy to get on board. They helped establish this statewide test command center that has really helped smaller labs and facilities connect with us and the Mayo Clinic, so they can use us for testing. This statewide coordination was really important. “

Should facilities reserve or construct space for a pandemic preparedness lab? Dr Karger says it’s a fair discussion to have with institutional leaders. If ARDL hadn’t been available, 10,000 tests a day would be a dream, as local clinical labs could only produce tests in the hundreds.

“But everywhere, space is everything,” says Dr Karger. “It’s a great logistical barrier that could prevent an academic institution from setting up an operation and truly serving its state critically. We absolutely needed that extra space to do the 10,000 samples per day. I think this is a question institutions need to think about in terms of planning for future situations. “

To learn more about ARDL, visit this website.

U of M School of Medicine Selected as Capacity Building Center for NCI Serological Sciences Network

The Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology has been selected as a capacity building center for a new national network dedicated to serological or antibody sciences. The New National Network of Serological Sciences (SeroNet) is a major component of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is included in a Congressional emergency credit of $ 306 million to NCI for develop, validate, improve and implement serological tests. tests and associated technologies.

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