When the COVID-19 pandemic began in February 2020, no one imagined that nearly two years later, we would still be struggling to bring it under control. More people have been impacted by the disease across every population than any other prior public health threat.
The College of Pharmacy has continued its efforts to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our campus and in our communities across the state. Carolyn Banister’s team in the Diagnostic Genomics Lab has worked around the clock, processing as many as 2,000 saliva samples in a day for students, faculty and staff members and university employees’ family members.
“We are also conducting sequencing of the entire viral genome to determine if any variants might appear that haven’t yet been described,” Banister says.
This lab, developed out of the need to address the pandemic, will be of immense importance to our community down the road.
Carolyn Banister, Ph.D. Director, Diagnostic Genomics Laboratory
The College of Pharmacy also provided testing for other institutes of higher learning and for organizations across the state including the South Carolina General Assembly and the South Carolina Philharmonic.
Initial funding came from the CARES Act and from the state legislature through the Joint Bond Review Committee and has been continued through financial support from the university.
Banister is especially grateful for the ongoing support that students provide to the initiative.
“Students have been supporting the collection sites and working in the lab to help process samples,” Banister says. “Some College of Pharmacy students have been with us from the first day. It is good to have the consistency, and they realize they are contributing to an important public health service.”
Banister says the lab will provide tremendous value for students and researchers within the college long after the pandemic ends.
“The opportunity to work in a lab such as this opens their eyes to new career opportunities,” she says.
Students and researchers will benefit from having this lab available for future learning opportunities. Researchers may even use the lab for advanced testing abilities for cancer, such as liquid biopsy, a cutting-edge test that can find new cancer growth containing as few as one million cells.
“This lab, developed out of the need to address the pandemic, will be of immense importance to our community down the road,” Banister says. “It will further enhance the skills of pharmacists who graduate from our program by having the opportunity to interact with the lab during their time at UofSC.”