OSU Lab Puts COVID-19 To The Test

Wednesday, June 3rd 2020, 5:35 pm
By: Brian Mueller

Teamwork between OSU Medicine in Tulsa and the Diagnostics Laboratory in Stillwater has boosted COVID-19 in a big way in Oklahoma.

OSU’s Vice President of Research, Dr. Kenneth Sewell, came up with the idea in March to create a laboratory to process COVID-19 tests.

That laboratory is housed in the Animal Disease lab on campus. It already had FDA-approved equipment capable of processing COVID-19 tests and was officially approved for human diagnostic testing.

They had the place. Now they needed people.

“I knew if we were going to do this, it was going to take a lot of people," Sewell said.

So, Dr. Sewell got to work. He sent out a campus-wide survey asking for volunteers. Within a few minutes, he got hundreds of responses.

“Many of them were people, yes I work in a lab, this is what I do, but some were like, you know what, I’m a history professor, and I don’t know if I have any skills that are relevant, but if you can put me to work, I’m ready to go," Sewell said.

Dr. Ed Kirtley, the assistant dean of engineering extension, was one of the volunteers who headed the logistical effort of the project, reaching back to his skill set as a former-fire chief.

“It was an opportunity for me to maybe make a little bit of a difference for all my friends and relatives and contribute to the cause," Kirtley said.

The lab can test more than 2,000 samples a day. To date, they’ve processed more than 40,000 tests, at one point doubling the testing capacity of the state.

“It’s more than just the public health side, it's, individuals were impacted by that, that’s pretty cool to think about," Sewell said.

The lab has no plans to stop what they’re doing, and they may even keep the lab for future projects after the pandemic is over.