State Hygienic Laboratory heading image.
Research and Development
Jing Bai, clinical lab analyst, prepares lettuce and greens to test them for Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora.
Jing Bai, clinical lab analyst, prepares lettuce and greens to test them for Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora.

State and national partners chose the Hygienic Laboratory for molecular testing and pilot projects, including the development of assays to detect Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora, which the FDA described as of high level national importance.

The Office of Research Development oversees internal and external efforts to advance the research capabilities of the laboratory. Additionally, the office evaluates and advises the director of the Hygienic Laboratory on emerging methodologies and activities, including test methods, instrumentation and the overall science platform of the laboratory. Externally, the office advises and assists in the development of research agreements with external partners.

Hygienic Laboratory scientists are involved in numerous studies and projects that utilize advanced technologies and apply them to tests and processes. This is known as translational or applied research. The goal of this research is to perform practical studies that can be used to improve the health of Iowans within a short implementation timeframe.

The Hygienic Laboratory has a history of participation in applied research activities. For example, staff scientists have developed or modified analytical procedures for measuring toxic compounds or pathogens in air, water, food and clinical samples. They collaborate with researchers at the University of Iowa, other universities and private industry on a variety of topics, including infectious diseases, environmental health, occupational health, birth defects and neonatal health.

Engagement in research is one of the core functions of a Public Health Laboratory.

  • Partnered with FDA and Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals for an Illumina MiSeq Next Generation Sequencing instrument and reagents to perform whole genome sequencing on foodborne pathogens in support of the national FDA GenomeTrakr program.
  • Developed new real-time PCR assays for detection of Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora in food. The lab is currently conducting surveillance testing of leafy green produce samples obtained from local farmerís markets. This assay has been identified by the FDA as of high level national importance.
  • Performed pre-market, on-site evaluation of the newest Next Generation Sequencer (NGS), the Ion S5 XLS, manufactured by Thermo Fisher/Life Technologies. The product was launched Sept. 1, and studies were presented at the Association of Molecular Pathology Cooperate Workshop in Austin, Texas.
  • Designated by CDC as one of 27 official participants in NGS PulseNet. Iowa is one of 20 states targeted to receive additional funding for the purchase of reagents for use in this program.
  • Collaborated with Joshua M. Tebbs, Professor, Department of Statistics, University of South Carolina, on an NIH grant application for analysis of chlamydia/gonorrhea data.
  • Chosen as one of five laboratories to participate in CDCís Culture Preservation Project for the analysis of recovery of STEC isolates from various media. Results of the study will be used to formulate national recommendations for laboratories using Culture Independent Diagnostic Tests. The other four sites are in Los Angeles County, Tennessee, Minnesota and at CDC.
  • Selected as one of 10 laboratories nationally as a Level 1 Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) surveillance and response laboratory.This includes the disciplines of environmental microbiology, radiochemistry and chemistry in a partnership with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
  • Received the CDC Influenza Real-Time RT-PCR Panel QuantStudio DX Instrument (valued at approximately $80,000) for validation. Testing for CDCís 510k submission is estimated to begin in calendar year 2016.