SIU makes final COVID-19 test component delivery to Illinois health officials

SIU makes final COVID-19 test component delivery to Illinois health officials
Vjollca Konjufca, associate professor of microbiology, left, and Scott Hamilton-Brehm, assistant professor of microbiology, work in a laboratory at Southern Illinois University Carbondale making Viral Transport Medium, a critical component of COVID-19 tests. The mixture is in short supply and SIU faculty are helping make up the shortfall. (Photo by Yenitza Melgoza) (Source: Yenitza Melgoza)

CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Southern Illinois University Carbondale has shipped their final batch of a key COVID-19 test element to Illinois health officials.

The SIU team created 115,000 vials of viral transport medium (VTM).

With two other state universities, the SIU team helped buy time needed for industrial suppliers to ramp up VTM production.

In early April, state leaders asked universities to make VTM, which was in short supply due to the sudden large-scale need.

“We made 115,000 and were ready to make more, but the state gave the signal to stand down as the effort was a success,” said Scott Hamilton-Brehm Scott Hamilton, assistant professor of microbiology and one of the leaders of the effort. “The production of VTM from the three universities gave the state of Illinois the buffer time desperately needed so they could test for the virus on a daily basis and concurrently secure a commercial source to produce millions of vials of VTM.”

The substance plays a critical role in testing individuals for COVID-19, as medical personnel place swabs from suspected cases in vials containing the solution before capping, sealing and sending them to testing facilities.

SIU was the first to deliver its VTM to state health authorities.

They produced 40,000 vials under its initial contract.

SIU was working on its second contract with the state, which required the university to produce at least 80,000 vials, with a maximum of 160,000 vials, when state officials told universities they could halt production.

“I continue to be extraordinarily proud of the way in which the faculty at Southern Illinois University Carbondale have stepped up to assist the state and region in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gary Kinsel, vice chancellor for research. “I know that our efforts have allowed the testing capacity in the state to ramp-up more efficiently and that, ultimately, this testing capacity has saved lives.”

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