Florida A&M University (FAMU) announced this week that it will expand its COVID-19 testing capabilities two-fold as the latest academic institution that joins a growing list of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) benefiting from Thermo Fisher Scientific’s $25 million donation of diagnostic equipment, test kits and related supplies.
The agreement is designed to support no-cost COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
Through the “Just Project,” named after pioneering biologist Ernest Everett Just, FAMU will also receive technical support that allows the University to increase testing capacity and return results within 48 hours. As a result, FAMU has agreed to serve as a testing hub, which will process samples from other HBCUs in the region, including Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University.
The lab has been set up in the Center for Viticulture & Small Fruit Research. Collection of samples for the free testing will be administered at an on-campus facility.
“Florida A&M University is committed to testing our constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson on Thursday. “This partnership with Thermo Fisher allows us much needed testing capacity to help protect our students, faculty and staff as well as those at our fellow HBCUs in Florida.”
FAMU began planning its testing strategy early during the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to enact measures to keep its campus community safe. FAMU’s comprehensive reopening plan leverages all available safety precautions, including a detailed contact tracing initiative, isolation schedules for positive cases, public health education and community screening.
Since April 25, FAMU’s Bragg Memorial Stadium has been home to the region’s largest free COVID-19 testing site. More than 54,000 people have received free diagnostic testing, which is being conducted in partnership with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Florida National Guard, the Florida Department of Health and the Leon County Health Department.
The donation from Thermo Fisher enables the University to immediately scale FAMU’s existing testing efforts two-fold, with the potential of achieving an expanded testing capacity of five times its current operations.
“We are proud The Just Project now includes FAMU, a highly regarded institution that had already demonstrated a sophisticated and comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Dubose, the president of the Healthcare Market Division at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “As a proud FAMU alum, I personally recognize the critical role HBCUs play in shaping our future generation of leaders. This is why Thermo Fisher is committing to hire at least 500 students from these schools over the next three years to provide them a path toward careers in business, science and engineering.”
Thermo Fisher has now signed agreements with seven campuses that will serve as testing hubs and process thousands of samples from HBCUs across the country. In addition to FAMU, testing hubs include Tuskegee University, Howard University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Xavier University and Hampton University.