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Technology at our fingertips. Q&A with Dr. Jerry Yeo, PhD, DABCC, FAACC

July 14, 2020
By: Dr. Jerry Yeo, PhD, DABCC, FAACC - Professor and Medical Director of Clinical Chemistry at the University of Chicago
Audra Nunnink - Director of Brand & Communications

An academic clinical chemist with more than 30 years of experience, Dr. Jerry Yeo is an esteemed Professor and Medical Director of Clinical Chemistry at the University of Chicago. He is passionate about the not-so-small world of diagnostic testing used for health monitoring and disease diagnosis, monitoring and treatments.

He oversees a large and complex core lab that is driven to provide the best quality tests used for diagnosis, prognosis and treating patients, and personally ensures that the results they release daily are of the highest quality and accuracy. He educates others on the advances in laboratory medicine, and participates in translational research, especially drawn to areas where there is a gap, taking a leadership role in making emerging testing options available.

As a leading expert in the medical research community who is driven to understand the complexities of COVID-19 and is working to weed out the best testing options, Dr. Yeo provides his thoughts on lateral flow technology.

What is appealing about lateral flow technology?
There’s a great deal of potential with this technology, being that it’s very practical, especially for deployment in off-site environments, or in countries where there is not easy access to healthcare. The beauty is that it’s simple to use, stable, and no equipment is needed to run them. The technology is quickly deployable, and results are significantly faster than with sophisticated technology.

Lab tests have three attributes that we look for: fast, cheap, and good. Often, most tests only have two out of three, in any combination. They can be fast and cheap but not good; unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of that throughout this pandemic. They can be fast and good and not cheap, etc. If a test can meet all three, then we really grab at it. Truvian’s Easy Check COVID-19 IgM/IgG antibody test, for instance, performed well in our hands; it looks comparable with tests done on more standard of care analyzers in the lab and appears to have all three attributes we need.

What is the utility of lateral flow technology as it relates to the study of COVID-19?
Access to the diagnostic tests has been an issue, even in this country, from both the availability of the tests as well as the cost. When we have options that are priced more friendly to the masses, access is not tempered by lack of money, and the impact can be quite a bit more in terms of the number of people who can get tested. Lateral flow technology is drastically more affordable than traditional laboratory tests.

Another aspect of access is how easy it is. If you need to jump through multiple hoops to get a test, it’s human nature to be discouraged and not participate. This technology lets health care practitioners test and give results within the same visit; no extra scheduling, no follow-up time. They can make an immediate determination and move forward with a plan, which has positive implications for the patient, and the health system in general.

What is one key takeaway from this pandemic?
There has been a rush to meet demand of testing, and everyone is trying to get findings published because it’s so competitive, but in rushing, there has been a lack of peer review. The entire world is looking for a cure or hope, so people latch on to everything. But it’s worth taking the time, because rushing can truly cause more harm than good, and doubt is widely cast if too many papers are retracted. The scientific world itself needs to step up and police better, there needs to be transparency, and studies need to be performed independent from the company offering the test. People typically focus on the negative news; the more scandal we have with retractions, and fraudulent data, then it all becomes suspect, so at the end of the day, we need to take the time, because we need science to lead the way.

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