Colligan Clinical Diagnostic Lab to end COVID testing amid regulatory changes

UC Santa Cruz will continue to regularly provide free on-site testing to its campus community through a commercial vendor

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Providing fast and easy testing for COVID-19—and in some situations requiring it—remains a foundational element of the university’s ability to support in-person learning, teaching and operations.

After running more than 160,000 tests for COVID-19, the UC Santa Cruz Colligan Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory will wind down its support of COVID-19 testing. 

With widespread COVID-19 testing available and significant changes to the regulatory landscape for emergency testing facilities, Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer said this is the right moment to end the lab’s work in testing for COVID-19 and begin a planned transition to focusing on pediatric cancer genomics.

“We take incredible pride in all the hard work that went into creating and running this lab,” Kletzer said. “Our faculty and staff saw that UC Santa Cruz could fill a critical need to support the health of our campus and local community. I remain inspired by what they accomplished.”

UC Santa Cruz will continue to regularly provide free on-site testing to its campus community through a commercial vendor. Providing fast and easy testing for COVID-19—and in some situations requiring it—remains a foundational element of the university’s ability to support in-person learning, teaching and operations. To date, there have been no identified cases of spread in classrooms or campus work sites. The campus continues to have an extremely low positivity rate of 0.59 percent. 

Kletzer said the campus remains dedicated to serving the Santa Cruz region and is planning to continue sequencing positive COVID-19 tests for the California Department of Public Health and the local community to monitor when variants—such as Omicron—are found in the Santa Cruz community. 

Faculty and staff established the lab in May 2020, just months after the pandemic disrupted nearly all aspects of society. At the time, opportunities to get tested for COVID-19 were scarce and often the results took a week or more. 

Once the lab opened, the team of faculty and staff turned their attention to carefully scaling the operations, creating an opportunity to serve the local community. With the support of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, the lab began to process samples for the two largest community clinics in the county, Santa Cruz Community Health and Salud Para La Gente. The lab, operating at the time as the Molecular Diagnostic Lab, also began providing test results for other high-risk populations in the community, such as the Santa Cruz County Jail and the Santa Cruz County Probation Department.

A generous gift from Bud and Rebecca Colligan in December 2020 enabled the construction of a new, dedicated laboratory space to house the diagnostic lab at the Westside Research Park that would support COVID-19 testing and later transition to pediatric genomics diagnostics. The Colligans also provided support for a pediatric genomics chair.  

At capacity, the lab was processing 5,000 tests per week for both the campus and the community. 

“The CCDL has made critical contributions to the health of the campus and the greater Santa Cruz County Community through access to high quality, fast turnaround testing,” said interim Vice Chancellor for Research John MacMillan. “We are grateful to all of the staff, faculty and students that have contributed to the success of the lab over the last 18 months.”