Tel Aviv University Establishes Emergency Laboratory to Expand COVID-19 Testing

Tel Aviv University has built an emergency COVID-19 testing laboratory, which will allow Israel to conduct 2,000 additional coronavirus tests per day. The new facility was born virtually overnight from the interdisciplinary efforts of TAU researchers, graduate students, and administrative staff at the Sackler School of Medicine and the George S. Wise School of Life Sciences.

Construction of the laboratory began Tuesday, March 24 at 7 a.m. and it was completed on Friday, March 27, with engineers, construction workers, professors and graduate students working around the clock. An official from the Ministry of Health checked the laboratory to make sure it was complying with health and safety protocols before starting operations.

“We realized immediately how critical the tests were and how we at the University could contribute to the diagnostic landscape of Israel,” explains Professor Ariel Munitz of the Sackler School of Medicine, who spearheaded the establishment of the testing lab on campus. “It was not an easy decision. It was not clear if the Ministry of Health would approve it, and we did not know exactly what the protocol was or what was required, but we knew we had to act.”

“We all understood that there was a national crisis at hand, and our first thought was how to help and contribute: we have put all other considerations aside,” adds Professor Eran Bacharach from the Faculty of Biology and Molecular Biotechnology at the Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, who is in charge of the TAU BSL2 + facility dedicated to virus and bacteria studies.

Professor Bacharach also helped coordinate a TAU volunteer initiative currently underway in Israeli hospitals. “A week ago we had to convince the labs to accept our volunteers, but today the labs are approaching us.”

As a result of TAU’s volunteer initiative, some 170 student volunteers are currently embedded in 12 hospital labs, including Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital), Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh), Healthcare Campus Rambam, Soroka Medical Center, and HMO throughout Israel.

But after Sheba Medical Center laboratory technicians were quarantined as a result of exposure to COVID-19, TAU recognized the opportunity to further contribute to Israel’s coronavirus efforts by conducting public testing.

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