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From HIV to COVID-19: How research pivoted in the face of the pandemic
Until mid-March, PhD student and Vanier Scholar Natalie Kinloch had been completely focused on her HIV genetics research in Dr. Zabrina Brumme’s laboratories at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) and Simon Fraser University. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and suddenly, everything changed. Most research activities at Providence and other institutions around the world were curtailed, with the exception of COVID-19 work. Almost overnight, Kinloch dropped her thesis work and pivoted all her attention to SARS-CoV-2.
Dr. Brumme, director of the BC-CfE lab, recalls when cases of COVID-19 began to ramp up in B.C., she reached out to Dr. Chris Lowe at St. Paul’s Hospital’s virology lab to see how they could help. The St. Paul’s lab was the first hospital-based lab in B.C. to launch COVID-19 testing.
“We wondered whether BC-CfE could offer equipment, technicians or any other assistance in case of a surge in testing,” explains Dr. Brumme. “Then we also discussed whether it would be useful for us to implement alternative molecular viral detection tests in case we wanted to explore test sensitivity, or other related issues, as research questions.”