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Research Institute COVID testing a “game changer” for western Virginia

Published: Oct. 2, 2020 at 8:07 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The testing for COVID-19 requires several steps, as Dr. Carla Finkielstein explained during a recent video tour of the Virginia Tech Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory.

“You can see our team here neutralizing samples from patients,” Finkielstein said in the video, released by Virginia Tech.

Since May, the team at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute has processed more than 35,000 samples.

While some of those have come from testing at Virginia Tech, more than half are from seven health districts in southwestern Virginia.

And that, says Dr. Molly O’Dell, has made a huge difference in terms of testing capacity and turnaround time.

“When they first started out, they were doing like 40 a day,” O’Dell told WDBJ7 in a telephone interview. “Now they’re doing close to a thousand a day. It’s been a game-changer for us.”

Creating a COVID-19 lab and ramping up to run hundreds of samples a day wasn’t easy, or inexpensive.

But Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Executive Director Michael Friedlander said it was the right thing to do. And having an immediate impact has been satisfying.

“Sometimes it’s five years, ten years, maybe a lifetime before a researcher really sees the benefit of their work,” Friedlander said during an interview Friday afternoon, “so this has an added dimension where the contributions people are making, we can see how it’s making a difference right now.”

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