The Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation made a $1.25 million philanthropic gift to Berkeley-based Innovative Genomics Institute (“IGI”) to support its COVID-19 response. This support is crucial as the IGI rapidly pivots to address this global health challenge.
The majority of the funding will go to IGI’s novel coronavirus testing lab. Heeding executive director Jennifer Doudna’s call to action, IGI built a pop-up diagnostic testing lab in just three weeks. The first floor of the IGI building now contains a certified facility staffed by volunteer scientists who have just begun testing patient samples for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The Curci Foundation funding will help cover the substantial start-up costs and support ongoing testing, performed in partnership with the UC Berkeley Tang Center and the City of Berkeley.
The gift will also enable development of next-generation, CRISPR-based diagnostic tools. Led by Dr. Doudna and IGI investigators Patrick Hsu and David Savage, the team is working on rapid, inexpensive coronavirus detection with the CRISPR-Cas13 system. The goal is to develop a new diagnostic capable of point-of-care or at-home diagnosis of COVID-19 in under an hour. This novel method will be benchmarked against PCR-based testing in-house, at the IGI’s clinical testing lab.
“I am so grateful to The Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation for providing this wonderful gift,” said Dr. Doudna. “This is an absolutely critical time. We have a chance to have a real impact in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, and it wouldn’t be possible without enthusiastic, generous support like this.”
Since 2013, the Curci Foundation has been a dedicated partner supporting life science research and programs at UC Berkeley. In 2017, thanks to a $1 million gift from the foundation, the IGI launched The SKCF Faculty Scholars Program. The program has supported one new early-career investigator each year since it was established.
Curci Foundation president Ron Rosequist notes, “Our foundation’s action is in response to the massive need for testing, particularly for those most at risk. We are joining many philanthropic organizations in this COVID-19 fight and hope our action will be matched by others.”