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Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences [BIOS] microbiologist and doctoral candidate Rachel Parsons Biggs has been seconded to Helix Bermuda where she is one of the many people helping the island in the fight against Covid-19.

A spokesperson said, “As COVID-19 reached the shores of Bermuda, the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences [BIOS] answered the call to action by providing supplies, scientific equipment, and expertise.

“BIOS microbiologist and doctoral candidate Rachel Parsons Biggs, with expertise in sequencing and bioinformatics, has been seconded to Helix Bermuda, a local forensics and clinical testing company owned and managed by Dr. Desiree Spriggs. Parsons has been working with Helix since mid-March.

“Helix Bermuda was the first company on island to have their real time PCR instrument validated for SARS-COV-2 [coronavirus] testing. Parsons uses a similar PCR instrument at BIOS for her research into marine microbes and is leveraging that experience into manpower to run COVID-19 tests on a daily basis.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Spriggs, along with Marshalita Tota, the Senior Medical Technologist and Laboratory Manager at Helix, Parsons works in the lab to process samples collected by nurses from the Bermuda Department of Health for the purpose of epidemiological surveillance.

“The Helix team has also been working on implementing and validating testing kits and a new protocol, now accepted worldwide, that is more sensitive with regard to detecting COVID-19 infections.

“Supplies and reagents from the numerous labs and research programs at BIOS are being used by Helix Bermuda, empowering the company to carry out vital COVID-19 testing when local supplies have been low. Donations were made to keep testing going from Dr. Julius Barsi’s lab, the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study [BATS], the BIOS-SCOPE program, and the Zooplankton Ecology group.”

“We have had amazing support from the Pan American Health Organization [PAHO] and Dr. Spriggs’ contacts in Cayman, Public Health England, the Caribbean Public Health Agency [CARPHA], and even some past BIOS faculty and staff who are familiar with real-time PCR,” Parsons said.

“It has been an honor to work directly with these agencies and be a part of the Helix Bermuda team with Dr. Spriggs and I appreciate the chance to assist with Bermuda’s response to this global pandemic.”