Clemson University’s robust testing strategy has been supplemented this week by additional capacity through saliva-based testing. In the three days of expanded saliva testing, the University has processed 1,599 tests, with 95% of results being returned the same day of the test.
The recent development of a laboratory certified by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments – commonly called a CLIA Lab – based in Jordan Hall on the main university campus has facilitated the increase in capacity. The University received a commitment of $6.9 million through Governor Henry McMaster and the State’s Joint Bond Review Committee to assist in the development and expansion of the CLIA Lab.
“This funding provides the additional high capacity lab facilities, testing support and reporting resources to help Clemson University meet its obligations to its students, faculty and staff and further its Land Grant Mission of helping the State of South Carolina,” Clemson University President Jim Clements said. “Clemson’s continued partnerships and collaborations with the other research universities across the state as well as its close working relationship with SC-DHEC will further the state and our community’s response to this pandemic.”
The goal of the CLIA labs is to 1) provide regular, rapid testing of Clemson faculty, staff, and students and 2) collaborate with DHEC to expand and facilitate rapid testing availability for the entire Upstate community and other institutions of higher education throughout the State.
Collaboration between Clemson’s new CLIA labs and DHEC will help fight community spread through expanding availability of faster, less-invasive saliva-based tests to off-campus Clemson students, local school districts, and other members of the Upstate community.
Overseen by Delphine Dean, the Ron and Jane Lindsay Professor of Bioengineering, with the help of Mark Blenner, the McQueen Quattlebaum Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, the lab employs 20 graduate students serving as the lab’s technicians. Approximately 30 undergraduates are helping with sample collection and are training in data handling and other tasks to assist the technicians.
When fully operational, the lab will be able to test 5,000 samples daily and return results the same day.
“This is a multidisciplinary, University-wide effort to create a lab that is a cutting-edge solution to help fight COVID-19,” Dean said. “We’re trying to ramp up quickly but safely.”
Angie Leidinger, Clemson’s vice president for External Affairs, said the lab is an example of the ingenuity that researchers are showing in the face of a global pandemic that is unprecedented in modern times.
“We’re grateful to Governor McMaster and the JBRC for this investment,” Leidinger said. “This funding not only assists in the immediate needs related to COVID, but also positions Clemson and the State of South Carolina to be a leader in competitive health-related research grants in the future.”