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From CRISPR Lab to COVID-19 Lab

The Innovative Genomics Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, has transformed itself from a lab exploring ways to apply CRISPR to one testing clinical samples to diagnose COVID-19, Wired reports.

As Wired notes, changing gears from an academic research institute — even one with the needed tools and people with the expertise to use them — to a clinical testing facility isn't simple. In particular, it notes that UC-Berkeley doesn't have a medical school so the only CLIA-certified lab on its campus was the student health center, which the IGI had to convince to encompass this endeavor. 

To stock the new lab, IGI nabbed PCR machines that could run 384-well plates and liquid-handling robots from other labs that were sitting idle, but also bought new equipment, telling Wired it was "burning cash." Academic researchers also had to undergo training to properly handle clinical samples, it adds.

As of now, Wired reports that IGI is finishing up its validation testing and plans to start running patient samples Monday, beginning with samples from the Berkeley community before further ramping up. "We would like to accept community samples," Julia Schaletzky from Berkeley's Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases tells it. "That was the whole goal from the start."