When a stay-at-home order in March all but closed the revered labs of the gene-editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna, her team at the University of California, Berkeley dropped everything and started testing for the coronavirus.
They expected their institute to be inundated with samples since it was offering the service for free, with support from philanthropies. But there were few takers.
Instead, the scientists learned, many local hospitals and doctors’ offices continued sending samples to national laboratory companies — like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics — even though, early on, patients had to wait a week or more for results. The bureaucratic hurdles of quickly switching to a new lab were just too high.
“It’s still amazing to me, like, how can that be the case, that there is not a more systematic way to address a central need?” said Fyodor Urnov, the scientist who oversaw the transformation of the Innovative Genomics