OSU medical center is expanding COVID-19 testing through team approach, chief scientific officer says

Peter Mohler, PhD, is the new chief scientific officer for Columbus-based Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center and health sciences colleges, and he is a healthcare veteran with COVID-19 research experience.

Dr. Mohler joined OSU in 2011. In addition to serving as chief scientific officer, he is the vice dean for research in the OSU College of Medicine and director of the Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute. The university credits him with leading research to expand and accelerate COVID-19 testing capabilities, with more than 80 COVID-19 related research studies occurring under his leadership.

Dr. Mohler told Becker's Hospital Review he is inspired seeing OSU healthcare and research teams collaborate during the pandemic and looks forward to continuing those efforts. He shared his goals as chief scientific officer and discussed OSU's testing capabilities.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What has you most excited about your new role? 

Dr. Peter Mohler: We're fortunate to have a great college of medicine. At Ohio State, we also have great colleagues in other colleges, including our health sciences colleges. I think we have seen over the last two months the ability to put teams together to answer complex questions [related to the pandemic]. This has been inspiring, and I hope to use this platform to bring people together [moving forward]. 

Q: What are a few of your top priorities for your first year as chief scientific officer?

PM: To make sure there's good alignment on some of the key things facing Ohio and the nation related to health. For years, academic medical centers have focused primarily on laboratory-based research, but I think alignment nationally with social determinants of health and areas of engaging population health is going to be incredibly important. Having a portfolio that balances basic, translational and health services research is going to be critical for our patient populations.  

Q: How has OSU expanded and accelerated critical COVID-19 testing capabilities? 

PM: We are fortunate to have a great partnership with Battelle, [a science and technology development company]. Our teams in the department of pathology have worked closely with Battelle scientists to create very accurate and high-throughput platforms for COVID testing for communities across Ohio. We have been successful by combining the different strengths of our two organizations. It has both increased our creativity but also accelerated our productivity. Right now, in our medical center we have about 100 active research projects focused on COVID-based solutions.  In some cases, we have completely repurposed laboratory space to expand new testing capacity.

Q: Is OSU working on antibody testing as well, or just diagnostic testing?

PM: We are currently only performing diagnostic COVID viral testing. We are not currently performing antibody testing. Like many others across the country, we hope to see additional progress on the accuracy and specificity of antibody tests for use in surveillance.  We do have active research teams at Ohio State and Battelle working on new assays — for example, examining neutralizing antibodies.  These types of studies are critically important today. 


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