Image of postdocs with the machine used to handle COVID samples

UC Berkeley scientists spin up a robotic COVID-19 testing lab

As doctors around the country scramble to diagnose cases of COVID-19, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) are creating from scratch a diagnostic lab with the capability to process more than 1,000 patient samples per day.

This pop-up laboratory, the effort of a unique volunteer team of academic and corporate partners, will provide desperately needed testing capacity in the Bay Area for those with COVID-19 symptoms and also help public health officials assess how widespread the epidemic is.

“The UC Berkeley team is racing to address this critical public health situation by establishing a testing lab that will be immediately impactful in our community, while also generating data that contributes to understanding the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” said Jennifer Doudna, professor of molecular and cell biology and of chemistry and IGI executive director. SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Thanks to the emergency modification of state and federal regulations and California’s declared state of emergency, the IGI was able to partner with clinicians at University Health Services, UC Berkeley’s student health center, and both local and national companies to bring in the robotic and analytical equipment needed, establish a safe and robust pipeline for clinical sample intake and processing, obtain the required regulatory approvals and train a crew of highly skilled scientists accustomed to conducting fundamental research to analyze patient swabs with a quick-turnaround goal of less than 24 hours.


Genomics, Infectious Disease


UC Berkeley


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