Dayton man helps develop test for COVID-19 at Mayo Clinic

Local News

ROCHESTER, Minn. (WDTN) — A Dayton-native who has worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for 35 years has helped developed testing for the coronavirus.

Mark Espy is a Development Technologist Coordinator.

For about a month and a half he worked 50 to 60 hours a week as the brains to develop testing for COVID-19.

“You’ve got to hit it hard and hit it fast with testing,” states Espy. “They should be worried about this. This is an infectious agent we’ve never seen before. So people basically have no immunity to it right now.”

Leading the charge, he and a handful of others reported to Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Matthew Binnicker who oversees the operations. Prior to the testing, they held meetings everyday where they’d present data to Dr. Binnicker; Dr. Binnicker would then make suggestions to come up with an overall plan and get the testing where it is today.

“It’s been a heroic effort and a team effort,” states Binnicker.

Officials say developing a test like this can take anywhere from six months to a year. When medical experts realized the seriousness of the disease and the dire need for tests, Mayo Clinic pushed forward, and the team worked tirelessly to roll out testing in a matter of a few weeks.

“Long days, a lot of hours,” describes Espy.

As infection soared, testing helped relieve the burden on state labs.

“Our test is a PCR based test, and so we’re detecting nucleic acids, which is pretty much what most of the testing out there is. They’re all molecular tests–PCR based. So they’re all looking for nucleic acids from the virus for detection,” states Espy.

Espy estimates they’re putting out some 500 to 700 tests a day and turning around results within 24 hours.

“We need to get results to our physicians and physicians around the country so that they could make those rapid patient management decisions,” states Dr. Binnicker. “Information is power. When you have the results of the test, you can decide whether the patient has the disease or not, and then you can take steps and make decisions from there.”

Mayo Clinic is in the process of getting more equipment. Once new equipment is installed, they’ll likely be able to increase the output. Until then, they’re testing as many people as they can.

“Keep your spirits up. We’re going to get through this,” Espy offers.

Espy also helped develop testing for H1N1 several years back.

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