Image courtesy of UH

The University of Hawaiʻi will help to expand COVID-19 testing capacity on Oʻahu as part of a new partnership with the City and County of Honolulu, according to a UH news release this week.

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

Through this partnership the TMC Lab will collaborate with Community Health Centers across Oʻahu 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 Hawaiʻi for the fall.”

The lab will operate out of the UH Mānoa 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,” said Rosie Alegado, associate professor of Oceanography and Hawaiʻi Sea Grant’s Center for Integrated Science, Knowledge and Culture Director. She is the community liaison lead for the TMC Lab.

Hawaiʻi 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,”Alegado added.

The ability to conduct this testing could provide wider insight as to patterns and prevalence of COVID-19 exposure locally. The 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.

Donate to the UH Foundation fund on COVID-19 research at UH.