EXCLUSIVE: This Bay Area lab can detect monkeypox in test sample within 4 hours

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ByLuz Pena via KGO logo
Saturday, July 30, 2022
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Berkeley-based Renegade Bio's science lab in Berkeley can test for both monkeypox strains in a 4-hour window.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Following San Francisco declaring a public health emergency for monkeypox, ABC7 News took a look inside a lab that's testing for the virus.

We went inside the Renegade Bio's lab to see firsthand how scientists are expanding their COVID-19 testing efforts to monkeypox testing.

RELATED: Concerns over stigmatizing the LGBTQ+ community rise as monkeypox spreads

"Once the sample arrives, we de-cap, we process. The total assay time is about four-and-a-half hours for high-quality PCR results," said Craig Rouskey, CEO and co-founder of Renegade Bio.

Each sample goes through multiple machines to decipher two things: who has monkeypox and what's the origin of the virus -- if it's the West Africa or Congo Basin strain.

"It's a thermocycler. It amplifies the genetic information of the virus by fluctuating between hot and cool temperatures. At the end of 40 cycles of temperature fluctuation, the results are viewable onscreen as S curves if the virus is present," Rouskey said.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about origin, infection, vaccines, and treatment of monkeypox

Luz Pena: "How long does it take this machine to detect monkeypox?"

Craig Rouskey: "The average runtime for this machine for 96 samples is an hour-and-a-half."

All samples are stored in special freezers.

The entire process is meticulous and for Renegade Bio's CEO, it goes beyond science. This work is personal.

"We are an LGBTQ-owned-and-operated business and really feel that it's important to our community during this monkeypox outbreak," Rouskey said.

VIDEO: Monkeypox SF Bay Area update: Local health emergency declared in San Francisco

This company is working with California's Department of Public Health on its overall state efforts. In the Bay Area, they're processing samples for Solano County and moving to test in San Francisco.

"Compared to COVID, it feels like we are living in a pandemic 2.0 with monkeypox. So we want to do like we did with COVID, which is provide testing as early as possible to our community," said Salu Ribeiro, co-founder and vice president of Clinical Labs at Renegade Bio.

Renegade Bio's CEO says their lab has the capacity to detect monkeypox in a sample within four hours.

That fast response is what they're hoping will be the key in preventing monkeypox from spreading to communities.

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