Lab Directed by ChBE Alumna Kimberly Brown Awarded Major Contract to Conduct COVID Testing

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CUMBERLAND — Allegany County has awarded Aeon Technologies a contract to perform COVID-19 testing at Frostburg State University.

The Allegany County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to accept Aeon’s bid to process up to 1,400 coronavirus tests. The vote took place at regular public meeting of the board at the county office complex on Kelly Road.

The contract calls for up to 200 tests per week for seven weeks at $86 per test. The cost will be covered by federal CARES Act funding.

The Aeon Technologies lab is located on the campus of Frostburg State University and is operated by Dr. Kimberly Brown.

The testing will commence the week of Aug. 10 with the university’s fall semester starting Aug. 17. Classes will be a hybrid of online and in-person instruction.

The COVID tests at FSU will be for staff and students who are asymptomatic but wish to be tested. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms, or feels they may have been directly exposed, is to report to the Brady Health Center on campus or see their medical provider.

Aeon has partnered with Pharmacare of Cumberland, who will obtain the test samples from staff and students.

It was announced on March 31 that Brown would be opening a lab at the Allegany Business Center at FSU. The lab was outfitted and began operating in June.

Brown spoke to the Times-News by phone on Thursday.

“We are very excited about supporting Frostburg State University,” Brown said. “We see this as important to the community to prevent the spread of COVID. We see our company as being able to help students, as well as staff, to safely go back to school.”

Brown said the lab will process nasal and oral tests.

“We want to protect the community from cases of COVID that can be potentially brought in by students and staff,” she said. “The students come in from places more widely spread than Allegany County, so it is really important.”

In a time where lab tests can take up to 14 days to get results, Brown said the Aeon lab can work in quicker fashion.

“The other uniqueness of our lab is we are focused on rapid turnaround,” she said. “Right now, turnaround in the state is taking up to two weeks. It doesn’t give you time to really have any intervention to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Currently, the two largest testing labs, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, are working to process millions of tests that may have to be driven or flown to a testing site.

“There are primarily two labs,” said Brown. “The challenges all labs have are supplies. So all the labs are vying for the same supplies pretty much from the same vendors. So you really have to plan appropriately. With our lab, what we do is, we only bring in a certain number of samples where many labs will bring in as many samples as they can and they will end up in a queue.

“But that is not how our business model works. We bring in a certain number of samples a day and bring them in and we turn them around in 24 to 48 hours. For example, we had a client a fews days ago, they got their results on the same day.”

Jake Shade, Allegany County Commission president, spoke the Times-News after the meeting.

“It was a competitive bid,” said Shade. “We wanted to make sure using taxpayer dollars with the CARES Act funding, that we go through the proper bidding channels. They were the low bid at $86; we had bids up to $136 per test. Aeon was the lowest. They’re local and they’re right there at the campus. It’s really a win-win for everyone.”

Brown is an internationally recognized Maryland health sciences professional. She founded Amethyst Technologies LLC in 2006 with offices at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Amethyst has 13 years of experience successfully developing laboratories to international standards for the U.S. government in North America, Africa and Asia. Her lab has studied multiple pathogens, including malaria, Ebola and HIV-AIDS, as well as the coronavirus.

Brown said she hopes to expand the Aeon lab at Frostburg and work with other clients in the tri-state area, including nursing homes, to offer testing services.

*Article written by Greg Larry for the Cumberland Times-News. Reposted with permission.  

Published August 19, 2020