UIC to produce crucial material for COVID-19 testing

Bellur S. Prabhakar
Bellur Prabhakar

University of Illinois at Chicago was selected by the state to produce 160,000 vials of Virus Transport Medium (VTM) — a crucial testing material for COVID-19 — and make them available to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Currently, there is a shortage of VTM throughout the nation as the demand for COVID-19 tests continues to increase.  

“I was contacted by the Governor’s office and asked whether UIC could help out,” said Bellur Prabhakar, UIC professor of microbiology and immunology and senior associate dean for research in the College of Medicine. “Given UIC’s commitment to fighting COVID-19 pandemic and our earlier experience with SARS, it was an easy decision.”

Prabhakar’s work has been recognized for developing therapeutic monoclonal antibodies against SARS and identifying antiviral molecules to make SARS vaccines more effective.

UIC started production of the VTM last week.

“Although we have been given 6 to 8 weeks to fill the order, we fully expect to deliver all 160,000 vials to the state well before the end of this month,” Prabhakar said.

Prabhakar and colleagues gathered the four required materials to create the VTM from across the country quickly — in less than three days. Once the VTM is made and sterilized, they also perform quality control to ensure the absence of any microorganisms.

VTM is a critical component for COVID-19 testing. A nasal swab is placed in the VTM to prevent degradation of COVID-19 that may be present in patients’ samples. This gives the state up to a week for shipping and testing.

Also involved in this project are UIC’s Prabhakaran Kumar and Stefan Green of UIC and volunteers from the UIC Research Resource Center and College of Medicine.

Written by Natasha Wadlington

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