PSU alum develops COVID-19 test for Southern Oregon

While the state of Oregon continues efforts to get the coronavirus outbreak under control, testing kits are still in short supply outside of the urban core.

Portland State University alum Jeremy Filip drew upon his experience working in a lab under Ken Steadman, a biology professor and virologist, to develop a temporary workaround and support additional COVID-19 testing in Southern Oregon.

Filip works at Asante Lab in Medford and said they were able to modify an instrument they had on-site and begin testing patients for hospitals in Grants Pass, Ashland and Medford. Their capacity is between 200 and 300 tests per day, but Filip said they’re only running between 50 and 100 tests a day thanks to the reduced rate of infection.

“There was a big surge for a while, but it’s dropped down,” he said.

Asante Lab is working with the state and local government to monitor and track tests.

“The state is encouraging hospital labs to have their own testing,” Filip said. “For a while, the load was too heavy for them to do their own testing.”

Asante was able to step in and help earlier this month.

Filip credits Stedman with his ability to help develop an interim test.

“In our research group, Jeremy was working on determining the sequence of some new viruses that we had discovered. This turned out to be very difficult because of how weird these viruses are,” said Stedman, who runs PSU’s Extreme Virus Lab. “So Jeremy had to try lots of different techniques to solve the problem. This kind of problem solving apparently has served him well, so that he was able to establish COVID-19 testing in Southern Oregon.”

Filip expects the lab to continue filling in the testing gap for the next few weeks until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivers its own tests.

“It’s a brief window, we’ll eventually be able to get test kits and get back to normal,” he said.