22 April 2020 Blog Post: COVID-19 Update Looking for Inspiration

As I reflected on some of my more recent posts, it occurred to me that many have been (warranted) critiques of testing, response and messaging from local, regional and national leadership to COVID-19. I decided today that I wanted to find some of the inspiring stories in this pandemic.

One such story comes from The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (same Broad provided funding as for The Broad Art Museum here in Los Angeles) which has pivoted from its usual research efforts to fill gaps in COVID-19 testing. I have a personal connection to The Broad Institute as I worked there for the better part of two years in 2001/2002 when it was still the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research.

Massachusetts ranks fourth in the nation for coronavirus testing, per capita. About 6% of those tests have been conducted by the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory. And just ten (not 10%, ten tests total) were performed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 50,000 tests have been run by hospital and academic labs.

In late March 2020, Broad Institute converted their large-scale genomics facility into a center that can processes COVID-19 tests. To date, they have run over 38,000 tests (real time link: https://covid19-testing.broadinstitute.org/)

At the Broad Institute, the transformation from basic biomedical research to coronavirus testing facility began with a phone call from Dr. Deborah Hung, an Infectious Disease physician and Broad member, to Dr. Stacey Gabriel, director of the genomics platform at the Broad. Although they had never done the particular biological test needed to diagnose SARS-CoV-2, they quickly figured it out. Dr. Gabriel says they can now run 4,000 samples a day and may scale up further.

(Dr. Gabriel was similarly exceptional when I was there from 2001/2002. She was responsible for a quarter million samples per day as part of the Human Genome sequencing project, She was nice enough to let me use her Sequenom machine on weekends as long as I didn’t break anything).

Not enough good news? It gets better.
The Broad Institute has also partnered with the City of Cambridge to test Cambridge residents experiencing homelessness. By making testing available with rapid turn around time, they are able minimize any potential transmission among those who may have passed screenings and did not exhibit symptoms, but were unknowingly carrying the virus.

𝗦𝗢𝗴𝗻 𝗨𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 π—’π˜‚π—Ώ π—‘π—²π˜„π˜€π—Ήπ—²π˜π˜π—²π—Ώ

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