Campus News

SUNY COVID-19 testing lab opens on South Campus

 A lab technitian prepares a saliva sample for testing.

A worker prepares a sample at the new SUNY COVID-19 testing lab in Farber Hall. Photo: Douglas Levere

By CORY NEALON

Published April 6, 2021

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“As we continue weekly testing of our in-person campus population for COVID-19, while also following our health and safety protocols, this lab helps us build on our commitment to foster a safe and productive learning environment for our university community. ”
President Satish K. Tripathi

The South Campus lab that greatly increases SUNY’s COVID-19 surveillance testing capacity has opened, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced Monday.

Located in Farber Hall, the lab can process up to 150,000 saliva tests per week — boosting SUNY’s system-wide capacity to roughly 350,000 tests per week.

Run by SUNY Upstate Medical University and Syracuse-based Quadrant Biosciences, the lab is expected to increase the turnaround time for test results to 24 hours or less.  

“With vaccine eligibility opening up to college students tomorrow [Tuesday], we are all looking forward to better, more normal times ahead. However, while we may be rounding third base, we’re not home yet — and routine COVID-19 testing will be pivotal to getting us there safely in the weeks and months to come,” Malatras said.

President Satish K. Tripathi said UB was pleased to be hosting the COVID-19 testing laboratory. “Although we are optimistic about the increasingly robust vaccine distribution and administration, we recognize the very real threat that the virus still poses,” he said.

“As we continue weekly testing of our in-person campus population for COVID-19, while also following our health and safety protocols, this lab helps us build on our commitment to foster a safe and productive learning environment for our university community.”

Starting this semester, all SUNY campuses, including UB, began weekly surveillance testing of students, faculty and staff who are on campus regularly. This led to an increase in tests being analyzed at Upstate Medical, and the need for additional testing capacity.

Close up view of a sample being poured into a vial.

The lab can process up to 150,000 saliva tests per week and is expected to increase the turnaround time for test results to 24 hours or less. Photo: Douglas Levere

The test being used is the Clarifi COVID-19 test, which was co-developed by Upstate Medical and Quadrant Biosciences. It is the world’s most accurate saliva test, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. UB students, faculty and staff are using a new version of the test in which participants spit saliva directly into a funnel that is attached to a collection vial. This test, which replaces an earlier version in which participants swabbed their mouth, is just as accurate as the previous one.

“Thanks to Upstate Medical’s world-leading saliva test, SUNY has been at the forefront of monitoring and containing this virus on college campuses. UB’s new, state-of-the-art testing lab further expands our testing capacity and shortens the turnaround time for results — providing further assurance that we can protect students, faculty, staff and our surrounding communities from COVID until it’s in the rearview for good,” Malatras said.

Quadrant Biosciences is staffing the Farber Hall lab in partnership with SUNY faculty and student medical researcher teams, which are handling weekly saliva testing for all SUNY campuses in Western New York.

“Upstate Medical University is thrilled to expand our COVID-19 surveillance testing technology into the University at Buffalo with the help of Quadrant Biosciences. This expansion will increase overall surveillance testing capacity and allow schools in Western New York to be serviced closer to home, ensuring timely results,” Upstate Medical University President Mantosh Dewan said.

Vials of pooled samples are placed into a centrifuge.

Vials of pooled samples are placed into a centrifuge. Photo: Douglas Levere

SUNY invested $120,000 to purchase equipment for the new lab, and Quadrant Biosciences is providing more than $780,000.

“We are excited to be a part of this critically important project to expand COVID testing resources in New York State” said Quadrant Biosciences CEO Richard Uhlig. “Having just recently shared the MedTech Project of the Year award with Upstate Medical for the development of the Clarifi COVID-19 saliva test, this represents still another example of the great success of our ongoing collaboration with SUNY.”

Since August, SUNY has completed nearly 1.8 million COVID-19 tests, with a positivity rate of less than 0.5%. The positivity rate at UB this semester also has been very low, currently at less than 0.25 for over the past 14 days.