As the state eases restrictions on business and public gatherings to reopen the economy, a Roswell pathology lab is helping increase the state’s testing capacity.
Pathology Consultants of New Mexico, with a lab in Roswell at 600 N. Richardson, is the first in the state to use Hologic Inc.’s Panther molecular diagnostic system for COVID-19 testing.
Hologic, based in Marlborough, Massachusetts, received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in April. Its company website says the automated system is installed in all 50 states and 60 countries.
Sara Rochelle, director of marketing for PCNM, said the pathology lab obtained some of Hologic’s proprietary tests for the Panther system on its own and is getting assistance from the Governor’s Office to obtain more.
PCNM will supply the swabs to hospitals and other medical facilities, Rochelle said.
“Right now we’re just starting with a few hospitals that we’re interested in and going from there,” she said.
The lab, which began in Roswell 70 years ago and also has a facility in Las Cruces, is mostly working with southern New Mexico hospitals, she said, although a few hospitals in northern New Mexico are also interested in working with them.
“We want to support the communities that are trying to open back up and get their (operating rooms) back open because, as you know, elective surgeries were canceled for some time. Now they’re able to open back up with limitations, and one of those limitations is having a negative COVID test,” she said.
Hologic said in a press release on its website it began researching a test for the new coronavirus shortly after the outbreak in China. A test was first developed to use with a different Panther system that does not have as widespread use.
The new test works on a platform that PCNM already had in use mainly for testing for sexually transmitted infections.
“We used it, and do still use it, to process pap tests and STI tests like HPV, gonorrhea and chlamydia. When this all happened, Hologic saw they could build a COVID test on the Panther platform,” Rochelle said.
The test has a sensitivity — or its ability to detect the virus — of 100%, Rochelle said.
“It’s very accurate. In fact, there are some people that are using it to make sure that they’re negative. They’re actually true negatives,” Rochelle said.
The Panther system could run up to 1,000 tests per day, she said.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.