UMS testing protocols will be based on guidance from UMS Scientific Advisory Board, likely to include screening of thousands of out-of-state and resident hall students, identifying and isolating incidents of COVID-19 infection and protecting at-risk populations before classes begin
Orono, Maine — University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and Chancellor Dannel Malloy announced today that the University of Maine System (UMS) has entered into partnerships with the nonprofit biomedical research institution The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) and ConvenientMD (CMD) to provide comprehensive COVID-19 testing services.
Under the agreements, CMD will provide “wrap around” services, establishing sites at each UMS university to gather samples and administer and report results. The samples will be tested by JAX for the presence of the virus. The partnership will focus on RT-PCR testing, which is considered one of the most reliable COVID-19 tests, with high accuracy and low false positives.
JAX’s CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) and CAP-accredited laboratory had, until recently, focused on complex tumor profiling assays to help cancer patients and their clinicians learn more about specific tumors to try to identify the most appropriate treatment options for patients. When the pandemic hit, the nonprofit quickly adapted its capabilities and expertise to now also test patient samples for the presence of a specific RNA signature unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The laboratory has established testing agreements with clinical, governmental, academic, and business partners.
Testing strategies and logistics are being developed to accommodate all seven UMS universities and the University of Maine School of Law. Planning for the effort has been guided by the University of Maine System Scientific Advisory Board, which was formed by Chancellor Malloy to support the Fall 2020 Safe Return Planning Committee. The board is chaired by UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.
“We have deployed UMaine’s capacity for science and innovation in service to our state throughout the pandemic,” said President Ferrini-Mundy. “The Scientific Advisory Board has been a tremendous resource in our planning. We know that one of our biggest community health challenges is that asymptomatic people can be transmitting the coronavirus for weeks. Our screening strategies will help us identify and isolate infection.”
UMaine assistant professor of microbiology Melissa Maginnis, a virologist who leads the UMS Scientific Advisory Board, notes that, “the coronavirus is especially stealthy and can be transmitted for up to 14 days by carriers who feel healthy and show no signs of infection. The biomedical community is working very hard to develop a vaccine and antiviral treatments for COVID-19 but we may still be several months or more away from a breakthrough.”
“We can take important, scientifically-proven steps to protect ourselves and prepare our universities to be as safe as possible,” Maginnis says. “Proactively identifying infected, asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus and isolating them while they are contagious is an important part of our university community health strategy.”
Public-Private Partnership for Student, Faculty, Staff, and Community Health
“At The Jackson Laboratory we are dedicated to having a positive impact on human health, and as part of that mission, we are proud to join together as a community to help one another during this pandemic,” said Dr. Edison T. Liu, president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory. “Our partnership with the University of Maine System in helping students and university faculty and staff safely return to school will have a broad impact across the state as a scientifically based reopening strategy.”
“The safety of students, faculty, university employees, and the medical community are of utmost importance during this time and we will continue to take proactive steps to navigate this pandemic as it continues to evolve,” said Dr. Mark Pundt, president and chief medical officer of ConvenientMD. “We’re excited to provide COVID-19 testing services for the University of Maine System and all its students living on campus to continue the mission of reducing the spread of this virus as much as possible.”
“Our partnership with The Jackson Laboratory and ConvenientMD, leaders in their respective sectors, will help our universities meet our commitments to student, faculty, staff, and community health this fall as we consider how to safely resume campus-based work and learning,” Chancellor Malloy said.
The University of Maine System and its universities will announce plans and additional practices for the fall on July 1.
About the University of Maine System
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites six distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.
A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.
Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.
The System consists of six universities: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMM); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes the University of Maine School of Law and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.
About The Jackson Laboratory
The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution with more than 2,300 employees. Headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine, it has a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, a genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn., and facilities in Ellsworth, Maine, Sacramento, Calif., and Shanghai, China. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health. For more information, please visit www.jax.org.
Headquartered in Portsmouth, NH, ConvenientMD is a healthcare provider dedicated to delivering exceptional quality medical care and revolutionizing the clinical experience for patients throughout New England. By offering fast, quality care at an affordable rate, ConvenientMD is raising the bar for urgent care and reshaping the delivery of modern healthcare. Each urgent care center provides an advanced array of services – including X-rays, IVs, labs and minor surgical procedures – as well as staff committed to following an innovative, full-service approach to satisfying patients’ demands for convenient, compassionate treatment in an urgent care setting. For more information, please visit convenientmd.com.