Testing for the Novel Coronavirus

Eli Lilly and Company  | May 28, 2020

Diagnostic testing hasn’t always been considered the most exciting area of medicine, but with the onset of COVID-19, screening for the virus became top of mind worldwide. First, however, the tests had to be created.

Lilly rose to the challenge immediately, building a highly selective test for the novel coronavirus – a process that normally takes months – in seven days.

Behind that speed, according to the head of Lilly’s clinical diagnostic laboratories, Andrew Schade, M.D., Ph.D., was focus, determination and teamwork, along with experience creating diagnostic tests such as those for Lilly Oncology.

“Oncology is a field that’s moving and changing very fast,” said Schade. “Developing tests like the ones we make to assess tumor biology requires the ability to rapidly respond to those changes.”

Schade’s “SWAT team of scientists” used that foundational experience from years of creating novel tests to study what drives a person’s cancer, to develop the diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2.

Lilly is the only major pharmaceutical company with an internal lab that is certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), a government quality standard required for human diagnostic testing, making them ideal for addressing this public health concern.

In a world where the availability of testing has been sporadic, Lilly was able to establish a drive-through facility and, in partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health, test more than 60,000 samples in Indiana, where the company is headquartered, for the novel coronavirus.

“Lilly’s testing efforts are the epitome of teamwork,” Schade said. “I’m very proud to be part of a company that is so willing to give back to the community.”