ASU lab stepped up to help AZ through the pandemic

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The Arizona State University Biodesign Clinical Testing Laboratory (ABCTL) has had a huge impact on how Arizona has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic.  In just a few months, it grew from an ASU lab to one of the biggest saliva testing sites in the country. A group of students at Barrett, the honors college at ASU, has created a documentary called “The Compton Project” as their thesis project, which outlines the lab’s success.

Currently, the lab is working more than it ever has. “This laboratory is on a par with some of the best clinical laboratories in the country,”  says Medical Director, Dr. Carolyn Compton. She mentions that they have been able to conquer every challenge the pandemic presented to them.

Thousands of test samples are processed a day through the combination of automation and human effort.

ABCTL Executive Director, Dr. Joshua LaBaer, confirmed that they have processed over three-quarters of a million tests, and he believes that saliva testing made the process much easier for the public to give their samples.

In the beginning, ABCTL designed their process to run on robots, and they continued to expand on it as the number of test samples grew. Some days, they would work through eight to ten thousand samples a day, and LaBaer mentions it would not have been possible for them to keep up with demand without their technology.

“You can’t do that many samples if you don’t automate the process. If you try to do those all by hand, the opportunity for error, the opportunity for delays, the number of people you’d need to have working in the lab would be just too great,” LaBaer said.

However, their need for community contributions continued to be vital through their process. They continued to hire more personnel and take in volunteers as the system grew.

“The contribution of the workers, it was the electricity that made this machine run… It would not have happened without them,” Compton said.

Dr. Carolyn Compton, ABCTL Medical Director
Valerie Harris, Assistant Director
Dr. Joshua LaBaer, ABCTL Executive Director

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