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With the addition of five testing machines from SUNY, Upstate has enhanced its lab capacity to perform rapid tests for COVID-19. (photo by Richard Whelsky)
With the addition of five testing machines from SUNY, Upstate has enhanced its lab capacity to perform rapid tests for COVID-19. (photo by Richard Whelsky)

What’s up at Upstate: In case you missed it

Upstate is a COVID-19 testing laboratory for a large part of the state’s school population, including K-12 pupils in Onondaga County as well as college students throughout the State University of New York’s 64-campus system and other campuses.

The lab tests include wastewater and pooled saliva samples. Upstate is partnering with Quadrant Biosciences on the “spit tests,” and SUNY recently bought five testing machines for

Upstate, allowing the lab to test up to 120,000 samples a week.

Researchers from Upstate and Quadrant — a Start Up NY company based on the Upstate campus in Syracuse — received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a saliva-based diagnostic test they developed called Clarifi COVID-19.

Upstate President Mantosh Dewan, MD, left, greets SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, PhD, who visited Upstate to see its COVID testing procedures.Upstate President Mantosh Dewan, MD, left, greets SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, PhD, who visited Upstate to see its COVID testing procedures.

The pooled tests allow from 10 to 25 people to be tested at a time, using self-administered saliva swabs. A negative test means all people in that pool are presumably virus-free. If the pool comes back positive, each individual sample can be tested immediately to determine who carries the virus. The quick turnaround time is crucial to tracing the virus’s spread.

Testing samples of wastewater provides an early warning of the virus’s presence in a town, a neighborhood or even a college dormitory, as Syracuse University has done, and helps determine whether individual testing of a population is needed.

Upstate partners with Onondaga County to offer free, rapid testing to K-12 students or school employees in the county and has sent vans to offer drive-thru testing at various sites in Central New York.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras visited the Upstate campus twice to see the testing procedures firsthand, and the SUNY Board of Trustees has commended Upstate and Upstate President Mantosh Dewan, MD, for their “exceptional leadership” in combating the pandemic, including clinical trials for vaccines and treatments.

3 hospitals in cord blood program

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center joins Crouse Hospital and Upstate Community Hospital in allowing new parents to donate their newborn baby’s umbilical cord blood to the Upstate Cord Blood Bank at Upstate Medical University.

Umbilical cord blood is blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after childbirth. Cord blood that is not donated is discarded as medical waste. Cord blood is a rich source of the hematopoietic stem cells that have the potential of being used in the treatment of dozens of diseases, like blood cancers and bone marrow diseases such as sickle cell disease.

Matthew Elkins, MD, PhD, medical director of the Upstate Cord Blood Bank, says, “through their generous donations of their child’s cord blood, they are helping others in need, either through transplantation or further medical research.”

The bank collects, tests, processes, stores and distributes umbilical cord blood donated by families throughout Central and Northern New York to be used by those in need of lifesaving medical treatments and for medical research.

iPads help patients, families connect 

More than 200 iPads were installed around Upstate University Hospital and Upstate Community Hospital to help patients and families stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like all hospitals in New York, Upstate had suspended visits for health and safety reasons.

The iPads also were used by medical staff as a safe way to check in with patients from outside the patient’s room, thereby conserving the hospital’s supply of personal protective equipment.

The iPads were purchased through donations to the Upstate Foundation’s Virtual Visitation Fund for Patients, with the largest gift — $50,000 — coming from the technology company Cisco.

Neurosurgery staff expands

Upstate has expanded the size, scope and coverage area of the neurosurgery department with the addition of three new surgeons.

Harish Babu, MD, PhD, specializes in epilepsy and skull base neurosurgery. Timothy Beutler, MD, is Upstate’s first neurosurgeon dedicated to critical care neurosurgery.

And Ali Hazama, MD, will focus on spine and minimally invasive spine surgery. In addition, neurologist Ruham Nasany, MD, joins Upstate to lead a new program in neuro-oncology.

For more news, visit upstate.edu/news.

 


Upstate Health magazine's fall 2020 coverThis article appears in the fall 2020 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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