Apr 7, 2020 · 4 min read

UCSF to Offer Free COVID-19 Testing to Nine Bay Area Counties

Departments of Public Health Throughout Bay Area Will Benefit from Expanded UCSF Lab Supported by CZ Biohub, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

2020 | A scientist at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub in San Francisco processes COVID-19 test samples. | Photography by Chan Zuckerberg Biohub.

Following a recent expansion of its COVID-19 test processing capacity at a new diagnostic laboratory adjacent to the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub (CZ Biohub), UC San Francisco (UCSF) will offer COVID-19 testing for 30 days, free of charge, to all nine Bay Area counties’ Departments of Public Health (DPH). The counties eligible for free DPH testing are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.

The new lab, launched last month with the support of CZ Biohub and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), tested its first samples from COVID-19 patients on March 20, and now is able to process more than 2,000 samples per day, returning results in as fast as 24 hours.

“In response to this emergency, UCSF has significantly expanded its Clinical Laboratories’ capacity to test for the virus in patients suspected of having COVID-19,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “We are pleased to now be able to offer our mutual aid in this time of crisis to all nine Bay Area counties’ Departments of Public Health by providing COVID-19 testing at no charge.”

UCSF’s new lab was enabled by an executive order from California Governor Gavin Newsom that provides flexibility in some state regulations governing how diagnostic laboratories are staffed. After the governor’s order, UCSF and the CZ Biohub were able to rapidly build out the lab with the help of hundreds of UCSF graduate student and staff volunteers, and to acquire the first test results from patient samples within just eight days.

“Our teams have been working around the clock to fight this pandemic with everything we have,” said CZ Biohub co-president, Joe DeRisi, PhD, also a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF. “We have amassed a volunteer force of over 200 graduate students and scientists dedicated to processing test samples with the ultimate goal of limiting the spread of COVID-19.” Early work in DeRisi’s lab contributed to the identification of the SARS coronavirus in 2003.

“We are thrilled to partner with UCSF, the CZ Biohub, and CZI to expedite the processing of tests across the Bay Area and utilize the high capacity and speed of this expanded lab,” said Dr. Charity Dean, assistant director of the California Department of Public Health and co-chair of Governor Newsom’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force. “Our goal is to make sure that anyone who needs a test can get one. This effort will go a long way in helping us get there.”

“Increasing testing capabilities throughout California is one of our highest priorities to help combat this pandemic, and this collaborative effort is an important step towards addressing the state’s existing backlog,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “We are thankful to UCSF, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub for their quick actions in response to this public health crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we value their partnership during this global health emergency.”


About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

About the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub is a nonprofit research organization setting the standard for collaborative science, where leaders in science and technology come together to drive discovery and support the bold vision to cure, prevent or manage disease in our children’s lifetime. The CZ Biohub seeks to understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying disease and to develop new technologies that will lead to actionable diagnostics and effective therapies. The CZ Biohub is a regional research endeavor with international reach, where the Bay Area’s leading institutions — the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco — join forces with the CZ Biohub’s innovative internal team to catalyze impact, benefitting people and partnerships around the world. To learn more, visit CZBiohub.org.

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