COVID-19 Testing Media

UMass researchers are working to streamline production of viral transport medium (VTM) for SARS-CoV-2 clinical testing.

Viral Transport Medium (VTM) is a specialized solution that is suitable for collection, transport, maintenance, and long-term storage of clinical specimens containing viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  This media is a key and limiting component for broader testing of individuals to check for the presence of SARS-CoV-2.

A number of regional health care systems are reporting that the availability of VTM has become a rate-limiting resource for the number of tests that can be performed.  As the number of people who should be tested due to possible exposure continues to increase, the demand for VTM is increasing.

GenomeWeb (3/20/20; has reported that there are at least seven molecular diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2 that have attained Emergency Use Authorization. Furthermore, CDC guidelines now say that an oropharyngeal swab is an acceptable specimen type if NP swabs are not available. They also note that standard operating procedure for public health labs is to create their own viral transport media in accordance with CDC's protocols.

A UMass COVID-19 response team has been created to produce VTM for the regional community.  This team was nucleated with a volley of messages between Peter Reinhart and others during the afternoon of Sunday, March 22.  During the week of March 23, reagents and materials were gathered and preliminary production was started.  By March 27, four members of the team were filling tubes using aseptic technique with an initial generation of enough tubes to test about 600 patients that had passed quality control for sterility and PCR.  These were distributed via UHS to Baystate and Cooley-Dickinson Hospitals. Since then, the team of 4 has ballooned to about 50 volunteers, about one-third of whom are experts at aseptic technique and are focused on filling tubes and the other two-thirds tasked with affixing the correct labels and packaging for distribution. During the week of April 6, the teams produced 20,000+ tubes of VTM for clinics and hospitals in Western MA and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.  During the week of April 13, that number was increased to around 28,000.

The Team

Barbara Osborne-Professor, Department of Veterinary & Animal Sciences
Peter Reinhart-Founding Director of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences
James Chambers-Director of Light Microscopy and Cell Culture, UMass Core Facility
Mike Daley-Manager, Cell Culture, UMass Core Facility
Rebecca Lawlor-Laboratory Technician, Department of Veterinary & Animal Sciences
Ravi Ranjan-Director of Genomics, UMass Core Facility
Erin Poulin-Manager, Laboratory, University Health Services
Amy Burnside-Director of Flow Cytometry and Animal Imaging, UMass Core Facility
Andrew Vinard-Director of UMass Core Facilities


Our Volunteers

Labeling Volunteers

Jim Chambers, Light Microscopy, IALS
Anthony Brouillard, Kulkarni Lab, ChemE
Sahana Kumar, Kulkarni Lab, ChemE
Elena Bliss, hMRC, IALS
Margaret Stratton, BMB
Gillian Weir, Hamill Lab, KIN
Khushboo Singh, Thai Lab, CHEM
Ana Torres Ocampo, Stratton Lab, MCB
Ahmet Bakirbas, Walker Lab, Plant BIO
Anh Nguyen, Kulkarni Lab, ChemE
Andrea Silva-Gotay, Richardson Lab, NEURO
Paul Kearney, R2R, IALS
Oscar Zabala-Ferrera, Beltramo Lab, ChemE
Gina Mason, P&BS
Jessa Makabenta, Rotello Lab, CHEM
Steve Eyles, MassSpec, IALS
Jeremy Spool, Remage-Healey Lab, P&BS
Teal Brechtel, Serio Lab, BMB
Ruby Bansal, BMB
Joann Rodrigues, Lau/Bulter Lab, CivilE
Joseph Bergan, P&BS
Sam Hazen, BIO
Ann Fernandez, Thai Lab, CHEM

Prep & Aliquotting Volunteers

Life Science Laboratories (LSL)
Mike Daley, Cell Culture, IALS
Rebecca Lawlor, Osborne Lab, VASCI
Joshua Gach, Undergrad, BIO
Amanda Woerman, BIO
Heather Bisbee, Strieter Lab, MCB
Stephanie Morin, Smith-Schneider, MCB

Integrated Sciences Building (ISB)
Amy Burnside, Flow Cytometry, IALS
Kathleen Arcaro, VASCI
Lisa Minter, VASCI
Jesse Mager, VASCI
Kurt Schellenberg, Biology Prep Lab
Constance Angelou, Pobezinsky Lab, VASCI
Elena Pobezinskaya, VASCI
Katherine Dorfman, Biology Prep Lab
Leonid Pobezinsky, VASCI
Helene Cousin, VASCI
Joseph Jerry, VASCI
Richard Goldsby, VASCI
Barbara Osborne, VASCI
Cynthia Baldwin, VASCI
Karen Dunphy, VASCI
Joseph Bergan, Jerry Lab, VASCI
Kai Strickland, MICRO Prep Lab
Amy Roberts, Jerry Lab, VASCI

Optimization for Testing Volunteer

Ravi Ranjan, Genomics, IALS

Distribution Volunteers

Erin Poulin, University Health Services
Cyndi Lamacchia, University Health Services
Denise Scoville, University Health Services
John Luzgin, University Health Services
Rupa Dhabuwala, University Health Services
Tammi Grissom, University Health Services
Kristen Lindberg, University Health Services
Marcia Masters, University Health Services

Hospital Couriers

Mark Heitman    
Richard Goldsby
Additional Volunteers

Peter Reinhart, Founding Director, IALS
Andrew Vinard, Director, Core Facilities
Dave Follette, ADDFab, Core Facilities
Charlene Coleman, Core Facilities, IALS
Shane Duclos, IALS
Robert Stevens, IALS
Lisa Korpiewski, IALS
Matthew Jasiorkowski, University Relations

In the News

WHDH 7-News Boston
UMass News

April 23, 2020