The University will set up an on campus site and a laboratory at the Viticulture Center to receive and test student, faculty and staff specimens.
Florida A&M University (FAMU) will expand its COVID-19 testing capabilities two-fold as the latest academic institution that joins a growing list of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) benefiting from Thermo Fisher Scientific’s $25 million donation of diagnostic equipment, test kits and related supplies.
The agreement is designed to support no-cost COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
Through “The Just Project,” named after pioneering biologist Ernest Everett Just, FAMU will also receive technical support that allows the University to increase testing capacity and return results within 48 hours. As a result, FAMU has agreed to serve as a testing hub, which will process samples from other HBCUs in the region, including Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University.
The lab has been set up in the Center for Viticulture & Small Fruit Research. Collection of samples for the free testing will be administered at an on-campus facility.
“Florida A&M University is committed to testing our constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “This partnership with Thermo Fisher allows us much needed testing capacity to help protect our students, faculty and staff as well as those at our fellow HBCUs in Florida.”
FAMU began planning its testing strategy early during the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to enact measures to keep its campus community safe. The University’s comprehensive reopening plan leverages all available safety precautions, including a detailed contact tracing initiative, isolation schedules for positive cases, public health education and community screening.
Since April 25, FAMU’s Bragg Memorial Stadium has been home to the region’s largest free COVID-19 testing site. More than 54,000 people have received free diagnostic testing, which is being conducted in partnership with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Florida National Guard, the Florida Department of Health and the Leon County Health Department.
The donation from Thermo Fisher enables the University to immediately scale FAMU’s existing testing efforts two-fold, with the potential of achieving an expanded testing capacity of five times its current operations.
“We are proud The Just Project now includes FAMU, a highly regarded institution that had already demonstrated a sophisticated and comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Dubose, president of the Healthcare Market Division at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “As a proud FAMU alum, I personally recognize the critical role HBCUs play in shaping our future generation of leaders. This is why Thermo Fisher is committing to hire at least 500 students from these schools over the next three years to provide them a path toward careers in business, science and engineering.”
Thermo Fisher has signed agreements with seven campuses that will serve as testing hubs and process thousands of samples from HBCUs across the country. In addition to FAMU, testing hubs include Tuskegee University, Howard University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Xavier University and Hampton University.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Florida A&M University and The Just Project Initiative
Through a donation from The Just Project, an initiative launched by Thermo Fisher Scientific, Florida A&M University will provide COVID-19 testing at no cost for all students, faculty and staff throughout the 2020-21 school year.
The FAMU lab will also serve as a hub providing testing for Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University.
With free testing available at Bragg Memorial Stadium, why add the Thermo Fisher Scientific initiative?
The Bragg COVID-19 testing site is operated by the state of Florida. FAMU hosts the site but exercises no control over how long it remains in operation. The Thermo Fisher initiative allows FAMU to develop its own testing infrastructure as this pandemic continues and to have control over its own testing operation to safeguard the health of students, faculty and staff. We also anticipate that we can reduce the wait time for results with an on-site laboratory. The Bragg testing site remains open.
What testing will be provided by the Florida A&M University lab
FAMU will have capacity to provide PCR-based COVID-19 testing for university faculty, staff and students.
Who will be able to send their samples to the FAMU?
Testing clinics operated by HBCUs within Florida, Edward Waters College, Bethune-Cookman University and Florida Memorial University may send their samples to FAMU for analysis and results will be reported back to the ordering physician.
Will any personal information be collected on persons being tested?
Information necessary for proper identification of the sample will be collected by the entities collecting the samples. The data will not be provided to any third parties.
Will any samples or data be given to Thermo Fisher or any other outside entity associated with FAMU for research and/or any other purposes?
No, the samples and data will be maintained by FAMU for quality assurance protocols and samples will be discarded pursuant to standard laboratory processes and procedures.
Can any personal genetic information from the individual providing the sample be gleaned from the COVID-19 test?
No. The PCR COVID-19 test is designed only to detect the presence or absence of RNA associated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The test is not capable of capturing any genetic information from sample being tested.
Why did Thermo Fisher donate COVID-19 testing supplies and equipment to HBCUs.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected the Black community. Thermo Fisher launched The Just Project to support the efforts of HBCUs to make COVID-19 testing available to all returning students, faculty and staff.
Who will staff the laboratory?
To get the project started, FAMU will hire four or five individuals who are licensed and certified to work in clinical labs.
Where will faculty, students and staff go to get swabbed?
The on-campus location for people to come get swabbed is to be determined.
What comes next?
Our goal is to use this opportunity to develop a campus-based clinical laboratory that conducts a number of diagnostic tests. This laboratory would be an additional resource for the campus members and for the surrounding community. The laboratory is expected to be operational in a few weeks.