North Alabama scientists are helping with the worldwide effort to develop new tests and treatment for the COVID-19 virus.
Diatherix, located in Huntsville, is a certified CLIA laboratory, meaning it meets federal requirements to test for a variety of illnesses. It is located at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and is part of the international biological testing company Eurofins. Dr. Jeff Wisotzkey is Diatherix’ Chief Science Officer & Laboratory Director, and his team is responsible for testing human samples daily for the presence of viruses and bacteria. Tests like those are called assays, and a group of such tests is called a panel.
Diatherix has been working on an assay for COVID-19 in January, “as soon as it became more than an anomaly out of China and the genomic sequence of the virus was published,” Wisotzkey told AL.com reporter Lee Roop. Scientists have continued work daily to refine the testing, and FDA guidelines released in late February helped clear regulatory hurdles. They are also monitoring work from other laboratories in order to make testing more successful, and available on a wider basis.
The company developed a test for H1N1 flu with a similar urgent process a few years ago, but Wisotzkey acknowledged this case is more urgent. “We need to make sure we are able to take care of the patients in this country and abroad. To do that we need to provide fast, accurate, high throughput testing for this and other respiratory pathogens.”
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