TGen branch in Flagstaff developing new test for Coronavirus

The infectious disease division of TGen (Translational Genomics Research Institute) now finds itself in the middle of the investigation into the Coronavirus.

The TGen branch in Flagstaff is working on a test that would help doctors determine if people have the virus. Officials say they hope their tests won't need to be used because that means the virus has gotten worse and spread to more people. They are, however, making sure they are ready. Just in case. 

"It is a rapidly evolving situation," said David Engelthaler. Director of TGen's Pathogen Division in Flagstaff.

In 2009, scientists at the lab worked to find the first cases of the pandemic flu in the state, when the CDC and state labs were unable to keep up. Now, they are developing a new test that will help to determine if someone has the Coronavirus or something else.

TGen in Flagstaff (Courtesy: TGen)

"We look at individual letters in the sequence, and they can tell if the exact strain is here," said Engelthaler. "Is it the Coronavirus that might be out there? Certainly not one of the other pathogens that allow flu-like symptoms."

While the CDC has developed a test to detect the coronavirus, TGen officials say they are gearing up to help if the virus becomes a public health emergency.

"We can see if this outbreak grows or gets larger, there will be an incredible demand for testing, as well as track and understand the virus itself. It might be changing," said Engelthaler.

TGen officials say they are confident in their technology because they can work with the virus's genetic sequence.

"Hopefully, none of what we are doing has to be used," said Engelthaler. "That means the outbreak did not get large enough and maybe starts to shrink."

While TGen has been working on their test for the past week, they have worked to develop its technology for over a decade.