Dr. Ines Elakhal Naouar has been helping prepare the diagnostics laboratories at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to support COVID-19 surge testing for the Military and the national capital area. The institute’s Diagnostics and Countermeasures Branch, which is led by Dr. Sheila Peel, is supported by HJF.
In January 2020, there were very few assays or tests available for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis. A rapid response team, including Dr. Elakhal Naouar, immediately sought to develop an algorithm-based approach to correctly classify individuals currently infected with COVID-19 and those with prior exposure. First, they identified and deployed an assay under Emergency Use Authorization for clinical testing in April 2020.
In parallel, Dr. Elakhal Naouar leads development of a high throughput assay and other molecular assays to assess viral clearance and to use in vaccine studies. The multiplex assay they developed has shown to be sensitive and specific for SARS-CoV-2 with good clinical performance. She and her team are working to transition and validate the assay on a commercially available platform, which will automate extraction and amplification for quicker, high-throughput results.