LSU Coronavirus Testing Lab Supports 18 Louisiana Medical Facilities

The LSU River Road Testing Lab, which was rapidly set up to help alleviate the burden of COVID-19 on Louisiana hospitals, has so far processed over 1,200 tests and is picking up the pace.



River Road Testing Lab

Luan Dinh Vu, a postdoctoral researcher, and Christine Walsh, a graduate assistant, organize viral testing kits to be supplied to area hospitals at the River Road Testing Lab at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

05/15/20 Update: The LSU River Road Testing Lab has processed 50 plates, getting COVID-19 test results to almost 5,000 residents in Louisiana.

04/08/20 Update: The number of medical facilites the LSU River Road Testing Lab supports is up to 18 from the original 13.


Stephania Cormier, a respiratory immunologist, and Rebecca Christofferson, an emerging viruses expert and epidemiologist, are leading the effort. In a matter of days, they stood up a new testing lab—and received federal approval—as reported last week in The Advocate. Over the past two weeks, they have created and processed over 1,200 sample kits and diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19. These samples arrive daily from Louisiana hospitals as far as Lake Charles.
The River Road Testing Lab, housed in the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, is usually able to deliver results in hours rather than days. Many of the tests that need the quickest turnaround have been streaming in, and local hospitals are supporting the effort. Testing delays for patients drain badly needed hospital resources, such as personal protective equipment, or PPE (masks, gowns, etc.)
“The Baton Rouge General Hospital laboratory has begun assembling sample collection kits for us, which is a huge help! This frees up both time and space for our laboratory team to continue to focus on diagnostic testing as well as increasing efficiency and throughput,” Cormier said. “Our Lady of the Lake has deployed personnel to assist with data entry, and physicians from LSU Health Sciences Center are helping with check-in of specimens.”


The LSU River Road Testing Lab currently serves 18 medical facilities in Baton Rouge, Gonzales, Zachary, New Roads, Hammond, Covington, Lake Charles, Napoleonville, Denham Springs, and Donaldsonville.


The lab conducts PCR-testing, which stands for “polymerase chain reaction” and detects genetic components specific to SARS-CoV2. Most of the samples that arrive come from Baton Rouge area hospitals, and the lab keeps getting busier as the outbreak continues; it is also processing tests for first responders.

“These virologists and laboratory staff deserve keys to the city,” said Dr. Hollis “Bud” O’Neal, medical director of research at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and faculty at LSU Health Sciences Center.
Besides Dr. Cormier and Dr. Christofferson, the LSU River Road Testing Lab team is comprised of Dr. Luan Dinh Vu, postdoctoral researcher; Anh Phan, research associate; Thaya Stoufflet, pathobiological sciences research associate; Dr. Abbie Fish, biosafety manager; as well as graduate assistants Handly Mayton, Christine Walsh, and Erik Turner.

Dr. Cormier and Dr. Christofferson

Dr. Stephania Cormier, Wiener Chair and professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the LSU College of Science as well as professor of comparative biomedical sciences in the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Rebecca Christofferson, assistant professor of pathobiological sciences in the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Our team has shown an amazing amount of compassion and willingness to answer the call to do the right thing,” Christofferson said. “We are all in this to serve and alleviate the burden so that our community, which is comprised of our families and our friends, stays as safe and healthy as possible.”
Note: The River Road Testing Lab at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is only processing tests submitted by hospitals and other care facilities; those who believe they need to be tested for COVID-19 should speak to their physicians. Also, test results are never shared directly or over the phone; they are only communicated to the hospitals and care facilities who sent in samples. The River Road Testing Lab owes its name to the Mississippi River, which anchors the LSU campus and the School of Veterinary Medicine.



Elsa Hahne
LSU Office of Research & Economic Development


Ginger Guttner
LSU School of Veterinary Medicine