Coronavirus: One-of-a-kind epidemiology lab to open in Israel's Assuta

Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital will be opening a new lab for research and identification of disease outbreaks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Assuta Ashdod University Hospital (photo credit: EYAL TOUEG)
Assuta Ashdod University Hospital
(photo credit: EYAL TOUEG)
A new lab dedicated solely to the research and identification of disease outbreaks will be opened at the Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital in April. It will be the first lab of its kind in Israel – the only one that is designed specifically for the identification of pathogens in real time. 
After the country was unexpectedly hit by the coronavirus, the lab's mission is to prepare Israel for any other potential pandemics. 
Dr. Erez Barenboim, director-general of the hospital, asserted that "the possibility that we will be caught unprepared again is not an option!
"We have learned from this year that we have to make our greatest effort to be ready for the next occurrence of a new outbreak," he said.
The lab will be funded by Keren Hayesod, the worldwide fundraising organization for Israel, after receiving a million dollars from an anonymous donor wishing to contribute to the field of epidemiology. 
The current head of the hospital's microbiology lab, Nadav Sorek, will be managing the new facility and its research. 
Sorek explained the lab's goal and the approach it will be taking in more detail:
"Readiness here is the key word," he said. "The new lab will focus on scanning outbreaks of pathogens – mostly diseases and viruses. The basic idea is to constantly develop tests against new and already existing pathogens that we can use in the case of another outbreak.
"With corona, the lab had no previous knowledge or tests, and in a very short period of time, had to go from producing no tests at all to thousands per day," Sorek said. "With the advanced abilities of the new lab, we will be able to minimize that initial time."