STERLING, Va. — Behind high-security, pressurized doors is one of the labs on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our work is recognized by the whole industry,” said Dr. Steve Zhou, director of virology and microbiology for Microbac.
The Microbac lab one of only a handful in the world approved by the CDC to cultivate and test the live SARS-CoV-2 virus, commonly known as COVID-19.
“Often, they go to a third-party lab for expertise and for directly regulatory knowledge and also for speed, because we’re specialized in this,” Dr. Zhou said.
We were the first television news crew ever allowed inside this test lab.
What do they test there? They are products you might have at home right now. From disinfecting wipes to hand sanitizers, scientists are testing products to make sure that they work against COVID-19.
“They include many, many household names,” Dr. Zhou said.
The work can be dangerous, and scientists, like Cameron Wilde, need to wear special hazmat suits while working, knowing the work they do is critical.
“It is important and there is an impetus to come in every day and probably do a little more and get things done and get things done quickly,” said Wilde, a senior scientist at the lab.
More than a year into the pandemic, the testing there is still going strong. So far, the lab has done nearly 1,000 tests for several hundred clients from all over the world.
“The world is in a conundrum now, with trying to keep get this virus under control,” said laboratory manager Cory Chiossone. “And while we are working on things like vaccines and treatment drugs and things, people still do have to go to work, they live at their homes, they go to school.”
There are also emerging variants in the U.K. and South Africa, among others, of COVID-19, which the lab is now in the process of getting to begin testing on those. In the meantime, the work there goes on.
“This is how we kind of save the world ourselves, in a way,” Chiossone said.
It’s a world that’s counting on them outside the lab.