University of Hawaii to serve as hub in COVID-19 testing innovation on Oahu

(FILES) An aerial view of Honolulu. City officials believe that an aggressive COVID-19 testing on Hawaii’s most populous island will be instrumental for the State to achieve recovery and resilience under the “new normal.” (Screenshot footage by Alfred Acenas, EBC Hawaii Bureau)


By Alfred Acenas
EBC Hawaii Bureau

HONOLULU (Eagle News) – The University of Hawaii (UH) has partnered with the City and County of Honolulu to help expand COVID-19 testing capacity throughout Oahu.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced on Tuesday, May 19, that the city will provide $3.9 million in funding from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as well as additional funding from The Rockefeller Foundation to support the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Tropical Medicine Clinical (TMC) Laboratory.

Through this partnership, the TMC Lab will collaborate with Community Health Centers across Oahu and provide capacity to perform up to 50,000 COVID-19 tests and 49,000 antibody tests through the end of 2020. Funding from the City and County of Honolulu will also support research efforts at the TMC Lab to develop innovative approaches for less invasive and more cost effective COVID-19 testing.

“We’re really excited about this opportunity to collaborate with the city and county, the mayor and his team to leverage our facilities and our faculty expertise,” UH President David Lassner said. “This lab will also be a crucial component for our ability to open the University of Hawaii for the fall.”

The lab will operate out of the JABSOM’s Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology. Vivek Nerurkar, professor and chair of the Department of Tropical Medicine, will lead the operation alongside a leadership team that reflects UH‘s extensive expertise in virology, bacteriology, parasitology, and immunology.

“UH is enthusiastic about providing this service to our local community,” associate professor of Oceanography and Hawaii Sea Grant’s Center for Integrated Science, Knowledge and Culture Director Rosie Alegado said. Alegado is the community liaison lead for the TMC Lab. “Hawaii may see an increase of infections as restrictions relax. We believe it is important that UH provides supplemental capacity in case there is a surge of cases. We want to be able to serve our islands as needed.”

The university believes that the ability to conduct this testing can provide wider insight as to the patterns and prevalence of COVID-19 exposure locally. Such a partnership can also bring JABSOM’s expertise in Native Hawaiian health to support culturally relevant care approaches and new avenues for addressing health disparities during the COVID-19 response.

(Eagle News Service)