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When the novel coronavirus hit the United States in January, Virginia Tech faculty recognized the nation was on the brink of a COVID-19 pandemic that would affect the university and the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

By April, the university’s biomedical researchers developed their own method to detect the COVID-19 virus — a test that was flexible enough to circumvent the critical shortages of chemicals and reagents that stymied testing across the nation.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech engineers swiftly mounted a coordinated effort to design, produce, and test critical supplies, such as personal protective equipment and ventilator components.

Now, four Virginia Tech researchers who had unparalleled views of the university’s early action in response to COVID-19 will provide the inside scoop about issues, obstacles, and triumphs during a virtual HokieTalk at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30.

HokieTalks are hourlong, interactive conversations that give community members and Hokies an inside look at activities that are making an international impact. The talk will be accessible via Zoom. Attendees should register online in advance on the Virginia Tech Alumni website

“When the pandemic exploded, the university had choices,” said Carla Finkielstein, an associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and the Virginia Tech College of Science. “Our university decided to invest intellectual and financial resources to do something for our community — I am proud that we were one of only a handful to do that.”

Finkielstein, now the director of the university’s Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, will be among the panelists with Michael Friedlander, vice president for health sciences and technology at Virginia Tech and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute; Harald Sontheimer, a professor at the research institute and College of Science, and director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute's Center for Glial Biology in Health, Disease, and Cancer; and Chris Williams, the L.S. Randolph professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering.

Carla Finkielstein, the director of the Virginia Tech Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, takes us on exclusive tour inside the Virginia Tech COVID-19 testing lab. With expanded testing crucial to controlling the pandemic in Virginia and the nation, Virginia Tech faculty, staff and graduate students went to work to answer the challenge. This lab was crucial to that response.

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