A Quick Reaction

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A Quick Reaction
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Testing for the novel coronavirus requires a series of reactions to find the virus's genetic material from a tissue sample

By Sonia Fernandez, UC Santa Barbara

In support of efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic locally, UC Santa Barbara researchers have donated essential supplies to Cottage Health System, to aid with testing for the novel coronavirus.

Professors Max Wilson, Carolina Arias, Kenneth Kosik and Diego Acosta-Alvear, all from the university’s Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, have donated 600 “reactions” to Cottage Hospital to help the medical facility cope with the fast-spreading virus in the community. Testing protocols for the novel coronavirus as developed by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control rely on a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which homes in on the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus's genetic material in a tissue sample and amplifies the signal by duplicating the target RNA to a level that can be detected.

The reactions provided by the researchers can enable anywhere from 200-400 tests.

As of today, there are 68 confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County, with eight hospitalizations — a so far relatively favorable situation County Public Health officials attribute to social distancing. However, the virus is known to spread rapidly from person to person as well as through contact with surfaces, and can be transmitted via asymptomatic carriers, raising concern and frustration over the low supply of tests available to community members who suspect they might be suffering from COVID-19 infection. There are more than half a million cases worldwide.

As the pandemic made its way through Europe and Asia mere weeks ago, the researchers knew it was only a matter of time before it reached the United States, so they took action and stocked up on the reagents.

“Ken and I had the foresight a few weeks ago to buy reagents so that we could do testing as we had to,” Wilson said.

Nevertheless, they were struck by how acute the shortage of the necessary reagents had become in so little time. “There’s a worldwide scramble for reagents right now,” he said.


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a-1585607009 Mar 30, 2020 03:23 PM
A Quick Reaction

Are these four professors personally donating the "reactions" to Cottage out of their own pockets?

a-1585607330 Mar 30, 2020 03:28 PM
A Quick Reaction

Did the overall UC System, or UCOP Janet Napolitano, allow this since they forbid donating PPE and other supplies to local hospitals?

Chip of SB Mar 30, 2020 04:02 PM
A Quick Reaction

It's a case of "better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission."

Kruppe Mar 30, 2020 08:31 PM
A Quick Reaction

If I was a professor, I'd say to hell with the UC administrators and give away my lab supplies as well.

ChemicalSuperFreak Mar 30, 2020 08:58 PM
A Quick Reaction

The problem is that those donated materials were bought likely bought with outside funding, whether private (a gift) or public (NIH or NSF grant). While the "giver" would probably understand, it is illegal to re-purpose funds and materials, particularly from federal grants, without prior consent. We actually can't even buy a pack of pens with an NIH grant, as it's only for lab supplies and specifically excludes office supplies. Re-purposing lab supplies could land you in prison and/or jeopardize future funding. Again, an agency like NIH would probably understand the intent, but that's not what the funds were for and you could run into problems later if you didn't get permission first and assure them that some mechanism would be used to replace the materials, because NIH budgets are thin and they're not going to pay twice for PCR reagents and the like. So as noble as your gesture is, you'd be looking for a new job if you said to hell with so and so and just gave away your supplies.

a-1585618707 Mar 30, 2020 06:38 PM
A Quick Reaction

Reagents, not reactions.

Shasta Guy Mar 31, 2020 06:22 AM
A Quick Reaction

I wonder what the reaction will be of the UC Board of Reagents?

Luvaduck Mar 31, 2020 07:40 AM
A Quick Reaction

I know logic doesn't necessarily pertain in bureaucratic situations, but I hope if there is any backlash, it gets squashed immediately. We are in a situation that is anything but normal. Time taken filling out forms and passing permission slips around could cost lives. If a truck full of logs is picking up speed and bearing down on you, do you stop and look both ways at a stop sign or give a glance and barrel through hoping for the best? Dead for sure or maybe dead?

EastBeach Apr 02, 2020 06:34 PM
A Quick Reaction

The Indy has a nice story about this. It was clearly a win-win ...... https://www.independent.com/2020/04/02/ucsb-molecular-biologists-to-the-rescue/

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