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News Brief: Partnership between UCSC and UNAM improving COVID-19 detection

Professor Claudia Wehrhahn
Professor Claudia Wehrhahn
Monday, August 31, 2020
James McGirk

In April 2020, Alianza UCMX, a partnership between the University of California and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), put out a special call for “Binational Collaboration Addressing COVID-19.” They offered $10,000 per project (split evenly between universities), with the possibility of an extension after six months.

Among the 20 projects funded by the program (spanning all ten UC campuses) was Validación de un sistema de diagnóstico molecular portátil para SARS-CoV-2 para punto de contacto* (point-of-care): a collaboration between UC Santa Cruz Visiting Assistant Professor Claudia Wehrhahn Cortes and UNAM Prof. Luis Vaca.

“This is a joint project with Dr. Luis Vaca at UNAM,” Wehrhahn said. “For many years Dr. Vaca has been working on a methodology that can be used to diagnose viral diseases. The aim of our project is to validate the methodology they’ve been working on under the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Diagnostic validation aims to qualitatively assess whether Dr. Vaca’s program has advantages over existing diagnostic systems. So far it seems like it does. It’s less expensive to diagnose each COVID-19 patient, results are available earlier and it is portable, which means patients no longer have to visit hospitals for testing.

Prof. Wehrhahn has been at UC Santa Cruz since 2017 when she came to do a postdoc with Statistics Professor Abel Rodriguez. On July 1st she became a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Statistics department.

(*Validation of a portable molecular diagnostic system for SARS-CoV-2 point of care.)

For more information about the Alianza UCMX program, please see: https://alianzaucmx.ucr.edu/press/2020/07/17/alianza-ucmx-and-unam-announce-binational-collaborative-covid-19-awards

For information about Dr. Luis Vaca, please see: http://www.ifc.unam.mx/investigadores/luis-vaca