UCI mobilizes to make vital COVID-19 testing fluid

University of California, Irvine is helping to alleviate the pressure on COVID-19 testing supplies by manufacturing a substance vital to the process.

April 7, 2020

The University of California, Irvine is helping to alleviate the pressure on COVID-19 testing supplies by producing a substance vital to the process.

The material in question is a liquid called “viral transport medium” that preserves samples for lab analysis once the test is delivered.

UCI teams are aiming to produce enough VTM on an ongoing basis to satisfy the need for the solution at testing locations operated by UCI Health. They are also making it available to other healthcare providers in the region.

Randall Styner, emergency management director and coordinator at UCI’s Emergency Operations Center – which has been heavily involved in the campus’ crisis response – convened a team to first ascertain whether VTM could even be created in UCI labs.

“As soon as the word got out, people started getting a plan together,” he said. “Right then and there, we determined that it would be possible to do this.”

VTM is a mixture of saline, disinfectant and such exotic ingredients as fetal bovine serum and sheep blood agar. Materials were sourced within hours from across campus as teams from the Department of Chemistry, the School of Physical Sciences, the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Medicine mobilized a rapid response.

With the green light given by Bruce Morgan, associate vice chancellor for research administration, and Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor for research, production began in lab facilities provided by the School of Medicine.

Khargonekar said the project is a great example of what the campus research community can do to help the medical center in this crisis, adding, “I’m very inspired by the tremendous energy and speed with which people are rising to the challenges.”

Learn more about how UCI is helping our community

Rapid responses such as this are partly possible due to the generosity of our donors. If you’d like to contribute, please visit our Brilliant Future website. All gifts, in any amount, make a difference here at UCI. Whether you’re making an outright gift today or leaving a legacy gift to impact future Anteaters, there are many ways to be part of our Brilliant Future.