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Professor Michael Whitt’s innovation in virus research from two decades ago has been innovatively adapted to help develop Covid-19 vaccines.
Whitt currently serves as the associate dean of the Office of Medical Education in the school’s College of Medicine. But his career at UTHSC began back when he joined the university in 1991 and in the mid-1990s developed a testing protocol that allowed researchers to study highly pathogenic viruses. A key element was that the work could be done in a Biosafety Level-2 environment. The challenge with the current pandemic is that a Biosafety Level-3 laboratory is required to work with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Such labs have much higher safety protocols, and most companies do not have them. But the surrogate system that Whitt developed allows crucial testing that can use the Level-2 standard.