Partnership to boost FAMU’s COVID testing

FAMU has been providing free testing at Bragg Stadium since April 25. Photo by Elaina Williams

FAMU has continued to provide coronavirus testing resources for students, faculty, staff and the Tallahassee community. The Bragg Stadium testing site has been operating since April 25, testing more than 50,000 people to date.

Now FAMU is taking the initiative to go beyond that; the university has partnered with Thermo Fisher to expand its OOVID-19 testing services. 

The goal of this agreement that was announced last week is to provide testing at no cost during this school year. However, this partnership provides FAMU the ability to do way more than that. 

FAMU has volunteered to be a testing hub. Through this partnership FAMU will be able to test people statewide at the three other HBCUs: Edward Waters College, Bethune-Cookman University and Florida Memorial University. 

“Florida A&M University is committed to testing our constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said in a release. “This partnership with Thermo Fisher allows us much needed testing capacity to help protect our students, faculty and staff as well as those at our fellow HBCUs in Florida.”

The partnership comes from the initiative that Thermo Fisher began, called the “Just Project.” It is named after the distinguished African American scientist Ernest Everett Just. Thermo Fisher Scientific has donated $25-million for diagnostic equipment, test kits and related supplies to a select group of HBCUs. FAMU has received $2.5 million worth of equipment. 

Early this year the FDA approved two types of tests to detect if a person had COVID-19, molecular and antigen. Molecular tests detect genetic material of the virus using a technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The process of a PCR test is simple: a health care worker collects fluid from a nasal, throat swab or from saliva.

With the testing kits from Thermo Fisher, FAMU will be able to provide PCR-based COVID-19 testing for university faculty, staff and students

The partnership with Thermo Fisher will help increase FAMU’s testing capability and cut the result time to 48 hours. 

“We’ve played the role in helping laboratories scale up their testing for them to be able to determine whether somebody actually has the virus at this moment in time,” Marc Casper, president and CEO of Thermo Fisher Scientific, said in an interview with CNBC.

A new laboratory has been placed in the Center for Viticulture & Small Fruit Research in eastern Leon County. The center was chosen because of the safety measures that will have to be put in place with the increase in testing.

Covid testing site signage. Photo by Elaina Williams

In an interview on WTXL, Student Health Services Director Tanya Tatum said, “With an in-house lab, that time [results] is almost cut in half and add to the number of people that are testing. It will certainly help with our surveillance testing among our employees and students, and still maintain the community safe here so that everybody in the community is able to be tested.”

To start FAMU will hire four people to manage the lab, which includes a lab director, manager and two lab techs. 

The opening of the lab has not been announced. FAMU is still waiting on some equipment to arrive.