Ferris State University’s Shimadzu Core Laboratory for Academic and Research Excellence is one of 19 regional study sites to receive grant funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The funding continues COVID-19 wastewater surveillance and additional implementation of COVID-19 variant strain testing of wastewater.
The MDHHS has distributed nearly $49 million to support this 26-month project, with research based in the Shimadzu lab receiving $1,831,851. Schuyler “Sky” Pike, an associate professor of Biological Sciences and director of the Shimadzu lab, said the team began gathering wastewater samples from eight campus and city of Big Rapids locations during the Fall 2020 semester. This grant aids expansion of those surveillance efforts.
“Four new sites in the city of Big Rapids will be added to the array, and we will also gain samples from four new communities across the lower peninsula,” Pike said. “We will be provided samples from the wastewater treatment plant in Ludington, and do assay work near the hospitals and jails in Reed City, Cadillac and Grayling, along with wastewater treatment plant samples from each of those towns.”
Pike said many of the student workers who supported this research in the last academic year graduated in May, so he has added a cohort of five students to manage the collection and study of the samples.
“As we add the new city collection sites to our roster, there will be a total of 43 sample reports to generate each week,” Pike said. “We have been asked to process these assays and provide our reports to the state within 72 hours. Our teams have achieved these results within 36 hours and as readily as 12 hours after they were collected. We will be able to safely meet, and surpass our reporting schedule for the state.”
The MDHHS collaborates with local health departments, tribal nations, wastewater treatment and environmental engineering agencies, colleges and universities, and public, private and academic laboratories to create their SARS-CoV-2 Epidemiology-Wastewater Evaluation and Reporting Network. The funding cycle continues to July 31, 2023.
Office of Research and Sponsored Programs Director Thomas Dowling, an assistant dean and professor in the College of Pharmacy, noted the significance of this grant funding. “This is highly important work being done by Dr. Pike and the students in the Shimadzu lab.”
Pike said the laboratory has been an increasingly active place, particularly in the last year.
“We continue our E. coli research that has been going on in the laboratory, along with three other research efforts that are underway here, for the summer,” Pike said. “Added to that are students and faculty members with research projects elsewhere on campus, who visit to make use of various technologies in the Shimadzu lab. It all makes for a very busy facility.”