ST. CLOUD -- A team of scientists in St. Cloud is devoting long hours to ending the spread of COVID-19.

In recent weeks, Microbiologics has been developing controls for much-needed testing kits, crucial in establishing an official diagnosis.

The controls – pieces of the COVID-19’s genetic material – are not alive. They cannot grow or cause infection. But they are critical components of the kits.

“Once you have a test kit, you need to validate it,” explained Brad Goskowicz, CEO. “You need the biomaterials – the actual organism you’re testing for – to validate the test works as it is, and then to quality control it.”

Goskowicz says test kits are required to pass extensive tests in order to make sure they work correctly.

“So, we kind of test the test kits, and test the operators to make sure everything is being done right.”

This is the work of Microbiologics, with or without a pandemic. The company produces biomaterials - bacteria, yeast, fungus, parasites, viruses - for quality control testing for hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and vaccine developers.

Microbiologics has two teams of 10 – one in St. Cloud, the other in San Diego – working together on the project.

“They’re working back and forth, sharing ideas, sharing materials,” said Goskowicz. They’re working through the weekend to get (the controls) out and available to these test labs.”

Microbiologics occupies a unique niche in the diagnostic world, said Brian Beck, Vice President of Research and Development.

“There are other groups that work in our area,” Beck explained. “But there are very few with our breadth, working on such a wide variety of strains and formats. We’re probably the leader in this area of biomaterials for quality control.”

Currently, COVID-19 is without a vaccine; the work of Microbiologics is integral to developing one.

“You’ve got to diagnose and understand the situation before you can proceed to a treatment,” said Beck.

The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States climbed to 64 Sunday, while about 3,500 have been infected with the virus that causes it.