NCSA Contributes to mobileSHIELD COVID Testing Lab

11.19.20 -

When the University of Illinois set out to deploy their newly-created saliva test for COVID-19, it was pretty immediately clear that efficient collaboration would be paramount to being able to quickly and efficiently test a large campus population. What ensued, and what continues, was a herculean campuswide collaboration that continues to innovate on the university’s Target, Test and Tell objective.

Today, NCSA is proud to have contributed to mobileSHIELD, a University-wide effort led by the Grainger College of Engineering, the Discovery Partners Institute, and SHIELD T3, which seeks to expand the University of Illinois’ SHIELD testing program to mobile labs across the country, allowing rapid and cheap testing in places that may lack it.

Chris Pond, Data and IT Lead for mobileSHIELD and Scientific Databases Lead at NCSA, spearheads NCSA’s role in mobileSHIELD. As Data and IT Lead, Pond is responsible for all information technology and data management, including IT architecture and design, lab process tracking, database systems, privacy and security controls, and all computing devices in the mobile lab.

“mobileSHIELD is an initiative to deliver the University of Illinois COVID-19 testing technology nationwide,” explained Pond. “My team’s role has been to make the mobile lab as efficient and user-friendly as possible, while meeting the project’s needs for traceability, and future-proofing the system for use beyond the initial demonstration laboratory.”

Additionally, Pond led a team including Steven Peckins from NCSA’s Software directorate and Chris Stephens from the Integrated Cyberinfrastructure directorate to develop a custom Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), NCSA COVID LIMS, which manages the lab process workflow from receipt of saliva samples to test results delivery.

Deployed on scanner-equipped tablets across mobileSHIELD lab stations, NCSA COVID LIMS is able to track all operations at each lab station, all consumables and lab equipment, and is even able to interface with PCR machines. All of this, of course, will produce mountains of data, something that Pond hopes the mobileSHIELD team could eventually gain insights from.

“NCSA is prepared to host research-approved data from mobileSHIELD, as well as other COVID testing facilities across the country, on our HIPAA-compliant research cluster, Nightingale,” said Pond. “The Scientific Databases Team, along with many other technologists at NCSA, are excited to work with scientists and analysts at the University of Illinois and elsewhere to gain a deeper understanding of COVID-19, and advance innovation in how we combat this disease.”

Read more about mobileShield in this interactive feature from Grainger College of Engineering, and read the full press release below:

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has completed the prototype for a mobile laboratory, called mobileSHIELD, designed to demonstrate a way to rapidly deploy I-COVID, the saliva-based test for COVID-19 developed at Illinois.

The project, funded by the University of Illinois System and supported by the Discovery Partners Institute, Shield T3 and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, also could deliver other testing capability during a public health crisis, and it will serve as a rich source of human factors engineering data, said Abigail R. Wooldridge, an industrial and enterprise systems engineering professor and mobileSHIELD project director.

In addition to leading the design of the new mobile lab, Wooldridge and her research group are studying how interdisciplinary teams can adapt and respond to a range of crises like future pandemics and natural disasters.

Read the full release here.

About NCSA

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation's science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and collaborators from around the globe use advanced digital resources to address research grand challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing one third of the Fortune 50® for more than 30 years by bringing industry, researchers, and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.