CSUF News Service

Science Alumnus on the Forefront of Developing COVID-19 Testing

Titans in the Fight
Against Coronavirus

Scientist Luigi Basilio is among Cal State Fullerton graduates working at Zymo Research Corp. Other Titans at the company working on COVID-19 testing and in other roles are: 

Angela Kim ‘13 (M.S. biology), human resources manager, supervises recruitment, HR policies and programs, and evaluation and development of HR-related strategies.

Alessandro Moriano ‘19 (M.S. biology), research associate, conducts research and development activities.

Edward Nguyen ‘13 (B.S. biological science-cell and developmental biology), technical manufacturing and quality control associate, performs quality control procedures on COVID-19-related products. 

Brettni Quinn '18 (M.S. biology), research associate and technical support specialist, assists customers with technical questions of all products, including COVID-19-related products, and conducts research and development activities. 

Kristina Reyes '11 (B.S. biological science-molecular biology and biotechnology), customer service manager, responsible for global distribution of COVID-19-related products and customer support. 

Seth Ruga '05 (B.S. biological science, chemistry), assistant general manager of operations, plans, directs and coordinates general operations of the company. 

Madison Tedder '15 (B.F.A. art-graphic design), lead graphic designer, print and digital media designer for marketing and products related to COVID-19.

Jessica Valadez '09, '15 (B.S. biological science-cell and developmental biology, M.S. biology), senior research associate, coordinates the management and processing of clinical patient and service samples. 

Holly White '15 (B.S. biological science-molecular biology and biotechnology), supply chain manager, coordinates global supply, including operations in the United States, a distribution center in Freiburg, Germany, and a facility in Tianmo, China. 

Science alumnus Luigi Basilio is on the forefront of helping to develop accurate testing to detect the new coronavirus and stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m very grateful to work at a company on the cutting edge of developing novel solutions for COVID-19,” said Basilio, a scientist at Zymo Research Corp., a biotechnology company based in Irvine.

“There’s a lot of scrambling going on in the U.S. to provide enough testing for suspected COVID-19 patients, first-responders, health care workers and other essential employees. We hope to help and do our part by making COVID-19 testing more readily available.”

Basilio credits his education and research experiences at Cal State Fullerton for giving him the knowledge and skill set to work in the science and technology industry.

As an undergraduate, he conducted research for three years under the mentorship of biological science professor Math P. Cuajungco. Basilio helped characterize a protein that Cuajuncgo’s lab recently published as a zinc transporter, which is potentially involved in the rare neurodegenerative disease, Mucolipidosis IV. He also co-authored a related published research paper.

“In Dr. Cuajungco’s lab, I learned research techniques that I use here at Zymo Research, and the laboratory experience helped me to transition into the biotechnology workforce and excel,” said Basilio, who earned awards for his research and was a scholar in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program.

Zymo Research specializes in providing biomedical tools and services to the scientific community in academic and clinical settings. The company is contributing to the development of the technology used to collect specimens, process samples and test for the novel coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease called COVID-19.

“I’m honored to be working with a team, including fellow Titans, that is helping in the fight against COVID-19,” said Basilio, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biological science-cell and developmental biology in 2012.

Basilio helped develop the company's trademarked technology that protects biological specimens during transport to the laboratory — this technology centers around ensuring an accurate method of specimen collection, while preserving quality until it is analyzed.

Zymo Research has developed a new testing process to detect the new coronavirus, which is already being used by a clinical lab in California, Basilio explained. The company is in the process of getting this new testing process authorized by the Federal Drug Administration through the emergency use authorization process to allow labs to utilize the test across the nation.

A critical part of COVID-19 testing is the specimen collection process through the use of nasal or throat swabs, predominantly done in a clinical setting by a health care provider. Zymo Research’s technology also is being utilized in a less invasive saliva-based collection method for COVID-19 testing, which was recently authorized by the FDA, Basilio added.

“The technology I helped develop for specimen collection and transport inactivates viruses, including the novel coronavirus, making specimens safer to handle, while preserving the virus’s signature for testing by laboratories,” he said. “This is particularly important for laboratories handling and conducting tests.”

Poor specimen collection and lack of preservation during the transport of specimens to a laboratory for testing can result in inaccurate results.

“This is a huge issue with many of the tests because the sample collected can degrade during transport and the result could be a false-negative,” Basilio said.

The company’s specimen collection technology has been widely used in scientific research. For instance, the company has collaborated with CSUF anthropology professor John Patton on his research on tribal communities on the Amazon River. The technology also was adopted by NASA for research aboard the International Space Station to mitigate human health risks related to spaceflight, Basilio said.

Contact: Debra Cano Ramos, dcanoramos@fullerton.edu

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