Genetics lab changes gears to test for coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — NxGen MDx is typically focused on genetic screening, but doctors are now using the lab to test for a virus with a vengeance.

“We are very grateful there’s something we could do to help,” Dr. Jacqueline Peacock, director of laboratory operations, told News 8.

She and a team of others in the Grand Rapids lab are joining the fight against the world’s biggest enemy, coronavirus.

“It’s not an invisible enemy if we can tell someone whether they have COVID-19 or not,” Peacock said.

NxGen MDx in Grand Rapids. (April 23, 2020)

On top of testing for inherited diseases and possible issues with pregnancies, Peacock said crews are testing between 500 and 1,000 coronavirus samples per day. They come from three main sources: hospitals, drive-thru tests sites and employers.

“There are about 20 lab techs and then 10 other people in the lab who are part of checking in the samples and getting reports out, reviewing data,” Peacock said. “For the course of a seven-day week, it’s about 20 people.”

Workers said they have seen an uptick in tests following the state’s expansion of the criteria determining who can get one.

“We are testing the sample here on site with equipment that we already have and we’re able to turn those around usually in about a day,” Peacock said.

If necessary, Peacock said, the team is capable of running up to 6,000 tests per day, pending staffing changes and different hours of operation.

Though her team doesn’t treat patients, Peacock said they find comfort in knowing they are potentially saving lives by letting a patient know their status.

“It’s one step in the right direction,” Peacock said.

Peacock said nobody inside the lab has tested positive for coronavirus. She told News 8 she is thankful to be able to do her part in fighting the pandemic.