Purdue starts limited COVID-19 testing in diagnostic lab; goal to expand state’s capacity in serving patients

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The Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL) – located in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine – is working with Fort Wayne-based Parkview Health to start conducting COVID-19 tests for human patients. Testing will be expanded in collaboration with other hospitals, with all samples sent directly from partner hospitals to the ADDL.

Angie Chan is the supervisor of the Molecular Diagnostic Section of the Animal Diagnostic and Disease Laboratory. (John Underwood/Purdue University photo)

Purdue University is continuing to lend expertise and resources to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic through increasing Indiana’s testing capacity for the virus thanks to a partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health and Indiana hospitals.

The Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL) – located in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine – is working with Fort Wayne-based Parkview Health to start conducting COVID-19 tests for human patients. Testing began after the lab received Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certification to conduct human diagnostic testing, with Parkview agreeing to provide clinical oversight.

Testing will be expanded in collaboration with other hospitals, with all samples sent directly from partner hospitals to the ADDL. To avoid a testing backlog, hospitals interested in working with the ADDL are required to complete the “Partnership Inquiry” form.

The goal is to turn around results the same day that samples are received in the lab.

The lab was certified in a matter of days after Purdue leaders suggested using the ADDL to conduct tests and address the state’s limited testing capacity and need for resources. State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG, said in a recent daily briefing with Gov. Eric Holcomb that resources are still limited for COVID-19 testing in Indiana as the number of cases continues to rise.

“The College of Veterinary Medicine has a long history of providing services to protect animal and human health,” said Willie Reed, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Providing COVID-19 testing is yet another way to support the citizens of Indiana during this unprecedented public health crisis. The project was shepherded by David Broecker of the Purdue Research Foundation and involves several partners including the foundation, the Indiana State Department of Health, Parkview Hospital, the Purdue community.”

Broecker is the chief innovation and collaboration officer for the Purdue Research Foundation.

Dr. Kenitra Hendrix, director of the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, says the ADDL had a unique opportunity to assist with COVID-19 testing in Indiana because of the lab’s expertise in providing infectious disease testing and immunity surveillance for animals across the state.

“The ADDL is uniquely positioned to contribute skills and expertise in the detection of pathogens to the fight against COVID-19, while maintaining our diagnostic support of animal health and the safety of the food supply,” Hendrix said.

Hendrix says the samples are being tested using a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing method that the ADDL uses regularly for animal specimens. The ADDL team, working with state health authorities, adjusted its intake and sample processing procedures to gain the necessary certification to use the PCR testing capability on human specimens.

“Our team has worked diligently to prepare to perform this testing,” Hendrix said. “It is rewarding to be able to take on this role in support of the citizens of our state.”

The project is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative effort with the Indiana State Department of Health, the Purdue Research Foundation and the Purdue community.

“Indiana continues to increase our capabilities and preparedness for rapidly testing patients to support our front-line health care workers,” Box said. “We are grateful to Purdue and the ADDL for helping to make testing more available for Hoosiers who are helping others during this pandemic.”

Parkview Health provided clinical expertise on obtaining a CLIA license and setting up the lab for human testing.

“It still takes several days to get results that are sent out to central labs across the country,” said Dr. Michael J. Mirro, chief academic research officer at Parkview Health. “Even the new tests are limited by supply constraints. What Purdue has done is fantastic and shows the ingenuity associated with creative problem solving. Paired with the significant amount of time invested by the Parkview lab team, we believe this will have a positive impact on the state’s testing capacity.”

The ADDL is a Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) facility accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD). BSL-2 laboratories are used to study moderate-risk infectious agents or toxins.

Hendrix says that additional partnerships with other hospitals across the state are possible. More information and a form for potential partners are available at https://purdue.vet/covid19testing.

To make a contribution in support of Purdue’s COVID-19 testing facility and the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, visit here and see CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) TESTING LAB.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

About the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine

The Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine seeks to advance global animal and human health and well-being through excellence in learning, discovery and engagement while serving as a major referral center for the diagnosis and treatment of animal diseases. Faculty research both animal and human health, with an emphasis on animal welfare science and the human-animal bond; infectious diseases and immunology; cancer; neuroscience; and musculoskeletal biology and orthopedics. The college also is one of only a few nationally that educate all members of the veterinary team, offering the doctor of veterinary medicine degree as well as bachelor's and associates degrees in veterinary nursing, post-graduate internships and residencies for veterinarians seeking specialty training, and graduate degrees in the departments of Basic Medical Sciences, Comparative Pathobiology, and Veterinary Clinical Sciences. For more information visit http://www.vet.purdue.edu.

Writer: Abbey Nickel, nickela@purdue.edu, 740-326-0481

Media contacts: Tim Doty, doty2@purdue.edu, Abbey Nickel, nickela@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: A Google drive folder with broadcast-quality b-roll and photos of the Indiana Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory is available at https://purdue.university/3abGFnF

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