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Hope Kenmore ’20 Describes Her Work with COVID-19 Samples for Weill Cornell Medicine

In her own words, Biology alumna Hope Kenmore ’20 describes her day-to-day work with the COVID-19 virus as an Institutional Biorepository Core Lab Technician at Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan.

Often referred to as the “biobank” for the Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork Presbyterian Hospital campus, our Institutional Biorepository Core (IBC) lab receives, processes, and stores all different kinds of specimens from human research participants.

My job as an IBC tech primarily involves processing biofluid specimens that have been collected for ongoing clinical studies. For each study, we isolate different components or cell types from blood and urine, then freeze the resulting aliquots according to downstream applications in the protocol.

We also assist with solid tissue collection, when we pick up specimens from the operating room as soon as they are removed from the patient, and deliver them to the biorepository’s Pathology Assistant. After assessing and dissecting the specimen, usually a tumor or lesion with surrounding tissue, the PA determines what is necessary for the official pathology diagnosis, and any remaining tissue can then be preserved for research purposes, a process the techs are able to help with.

In addition, we intake and store COVID-19 clinical remnants from hospital patients, such as viral transport media (VTM) or blood serum leftover after it has been tested for COVID-19 infection or antibodies, respectively. These remnants create a database from which future research projects can pull if any SARS-CoV-2 samples are required.

Right now, my two fellow techs and I spend much of our day processing biofluid samples for an ongoing study on the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare workers. We also process and collect for multiple clinical trials studying diseases such as lymphoma, lung cancer, and diabetes, among others. (For each study we separate out different parts of the blood or different cell types and freeze the resulting aliquots according to downstream applications in the protocol.)

In the pictures, I am aliquoting COVID-positive VTM samples into cryotubes for long-term storage. As you can see, any potentially infectious sample is processed in a special Biosafety Level 2 Enhanced (BSL2+) lab which requires layered PPE and extra safety protocols in addition to standard BSL2 regulations.

Story by Hope Kenmore ’20. Hope completed a double major in Biology and Dance.

Published: January 26, 2021