As COVID-19 was escalating worldwide, The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech became home to the first laboratory in the state to offer testing for COVID-19.

A joint venture between Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, The Institute of Environmental and Human Health was created 23 years ago to assess the impact of toxic chemicals on the physical and human environment, according to a Texas Tech news release. 

More recently, TIEHH has played a notable role in the COVID-19 pandemic as a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s and Texas Department of State Health Services’ Laboratory Response Network. In February, TIEHH’s Biological Threat Research Laboratory became the first lab in Texas to test for the novel coronavirus. 

As the number of COVID-19 cases continued to escalate in the following weeks, a collaborative partnership was established between Texas Tech and TTUHSC to increase the capacity of the lab to test large numbers of clinical samples each day, according to the release. Consequently, more than 30 volunteers from both campuses have joined the original five-person team, creating the Texas Tech/TTUHSC COVID-19 Testing Team.

Through the resources made available by the partnership, including expertise, technology and funding, the lab is now testing 350 to 400 samples per day. 

“TIEHH has been a critical research tool, helping West Texas track and minimize such threats to the vitality of the region,” Joseph A. Heppert, Texas Tech vice president for research and innovation, said in the release. “We are extremely proud that, in the depths of the current crisis, it is also contributing to meet the diagnostic needs of Texas citizens through its assigned region, which encompasses the Texas Panhandle and much of the Midland-Odessa basin.”

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