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Monday, February 6th, 2023

Northern Arizona University initiates COVID-19 testing project

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Northern Arizona University (NAU) researchers staffing the Pathogen and Microbiome Institute (PMI) have launched the COVID-19 Testing Service Center (CTSC) to grow the SARS-CoV-2 virus and test drugs against it.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that requires the whole scientific community working together to find fast, cheap, and effective solutions to the problem,” Paul Keim, PMI executive director, NAU Regents’ Professor and Cowden Endowed Chair in Microbiology, said. “Our ability to redirect the PMI BSL-3 facilities to COVID-19 research is a small but important part of the nation’s path forward.”

Keim is a world expert in pathogens such as plague and anthrax, having worked with the FBI to solve the anthrax letters case in the wake of 9/11.

NAU repurposed its existing biodefense research infrastructure for the new testing facility. The labs are rated at Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3), one of the highest levels of biocontainment. PMI is dedicating much of its significant research capacity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative calls for the cancer drug 2X-121 to be the first therapy tested against the COVID-19 virus at the CTSC, researchers indicated, adding the drug was developed by the Danish firm Oncology Venture, which recently signed a joint research agreement with PMI and NAU to evaluate 2X-121.

“By launching the new COVID-19 Testing Service Center with our talented scientists in PMI, we’re investing in a healthier future for Arizona, for the nation and for our whole world,” NAU President Rita Hartung Cheng said. “I’m very proud of their dedication and hard work.”