CRH researchers involved in Covid-19 testing, we found it important, they agreed

Photo: IMTM
Friday 19 June 2020, 9:19 – Text: Martina Šaradínová

Interesting experience. With these words, Radka Končitíková and Pavel Jaworek from CRH, described their volunteer work. They were testing samples on Covid-19 in a laboratory of the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine (IMTM) of UP Medical Faculty. From the beginning of April to the beginning of June, each of them worked almost 200 hours there. Other CRH employees then provided administrative support to the entire process.

In March, the researchers responded to a call from the IMTM for assistance in testing samples by the quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) method. Basic knowledge of molecular biology laboratory procedures, nucleic acid extraction and qPCR mastery was required.

"They were looking for volunteers in an area we know, so we signed up. We thought it was important. It was nice to feel that we can help someone," said Pavel Jaworek from the Department of Protein Biochemistry and Proteomics CRH. Together with Radka Končitíková from the same department, they then worked in one team with colleagues from IMTM. The whole process started with taking samples and ended with their evaluation. In addition to the activities they encounter in research at their home workplace, the researchers had to manage operation in a BSL-3 microbiology laboratory, which allows them to work with high-risk viruses and pathogens endangering human health.

"Working in a BSL-3 laboratory was new to us, because we don´t have it here at CRH. It was necessary to be aware of every movement, to be extremely careful what I touched, how I work. I approached it with respect, but there was no room for any exaggerated concern. Maybe I felt more responsible. One realized that he was working with human samples and someone was waiting for the results. If I make a mistake in research, the experiment can be repeated. Here it was necessary to do everything right the first time, moreover, we were pushed by time," said Končitíková.

According to both scientists, the work was demanding, especially from the beginning, when a large number of samples came to the laboratory. When needed, they stayed in the lab for more than 12 hours. "It simply came to our notice then that we got home at four o'clock in the morning. Sometimes we didn't even have time to watch what day of the week it was. One day we had a rest, the next we worked as long as necessary, "Jaworek described. Samples arrived not only from Olomouc, but also from the areas of Litovelsko, Hranice or Zlín.

At present, they can both fully return to their work, which is mainly plant hormone research. The number of samples decreased significantly, in addition, new reinforcements were subsequently involved in the testing, including Jitka Prachařová or Marika Svrčková from the Department of Biophysics of the CRH.

"If necessary we can get involved again. At first it took a while to get into it, but then it was almost routine. It was a new experience and we felt that we were contributing to something meaningful," said Jaworek. Both biochemists also praised the cooperation with colleagues from IMTM.Other CRH staff members were also involved in the testing process, although not directly in the laboratory. Martina Kopečná, Pavel Mazura, Aleš Pečinka, Eva Tomaštíková Dvořák and Dominika Kaczorová helped with data digitization.

"I would like to thank everyone who without hesitation used their expertise and experience for a good cause. I appreciate their willingness and devotion. This "project" also showed how important it was to invest in science and that Olomouc science centers consider mutual cooperation as a necessary thing," said CRH director Ivo Frébort.