In the news
March 26, 2021
Matthew Binnicker, Ph.D., is no stranger to working in a high-stakes laboratory environment. Throughout the course of his career, Dr. Binnicker, director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory in Mayo Clinic’s Division of Clinical Microbiology, has had a hand in developing diagnostic tests during several viral outbreaks, including Zika, Ebola, and H1N1, and he knows well the value of every lost minute. But his previous experiences paled in comparison to the pressure he and his laboratory colleagues faced last year when asked to design a diagnostic test to detect COVID-19 in Mayo Clinic employees and patients.
“I worked 165 days in a row,” says Dr. Binnicker, whose experience developing Mayo Clinic’s first diagnostic COVID-19 test was recently featured in Mayo Clinic Alumni magazine. “During the early days, I was on the phone late every night with contacts in Singapore and China. Singapore had many cases early on, and they were great about sharing knowledge they’d gained.”
For three weeks last winter, Dr. Binnicker worked around the clock with a team of 15 scientists to produce and validate Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 test. While the strain of developing the test in such a short time frame was extreme, the test rollout was even more intense, Dr. Binnicker says.
“It normally takes months of experience with a new test to figure out the nuances and minor details. We were learning as we went along and trying to convey information to physicians at the same time.”
For all the late nights and personal sacrifice, the outcomes enabled by Dr. Binnicker’s team — developing and validating a new test in under a month — were worth the herculean effort, he says. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been able to put our skills, which have been honed over years of experience, to use, and the lab profession has certainly risen to the occasion.”
Read the full Mayo Clinic Alumni story here.