VitalsJerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy
VTM Shortage? Not on Our Watch

When Gov. Greg Abbott published “The Governor’s Report to Open Texas” in April, he commended TTUHSC for producing viral transport medium (VTM) to expand COVID-19 testing access.

VTM is a sterile tube with 1mL to 3mL of cell culture media that contains a broad-spectrum antibiotic and an antifungal agent. The VTM protects the virus samples obtained from nose or throat swabs. Since the coronavirus is particuarly unstable, it’s important the samples don’t degrade in transit to processing facilities. Any changes could lead to incorrect testing results.

“While we didn’t have VTM in our labs, a literature search revealed that it could be prepared in-house from materials that are readily available in many labs doing cell culture work,” said Ulrich Bickel, MD, professor and associate dean of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Amarillo.

Using VTM vials in a lab
Heather Houser
VTM Team Puts Up Impressive Numbers
VTM production is a collaboration between pharmacy and medicine teams at TTUHSC in Amarillo: Todd Bell, MD, associate professor of School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics; Ulrich Bickel, MD, professor and associate dean of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Mikala Conatser, PharmD, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice; and Eric MacLaughlin, PharmD, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice. The team produced a webinar on the production process and shared it with other universities and labs across the state. Here’s what they’ve accomplished as of press time:
VTM vials produced since March.
vials produced per day on average.
TTUHSC faculty, staff and students have been involved in the project with an additional 50 volunteers labelling and compounding.
seconds is the amount of time it takes on average to produce one vial of VTM.
of VTM vials used in the tests conducted in Texas so far were produced by TTUHSC.