Innovator of the Year awarded to directors of virology lab

UW School of Medicine honors Drs. Keith Jerome and Alex Greninger for creating test to diagnose COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.

Drs. Keith Jerome and Alex Greninger were named Innovators of the Year 2020 by the University of Washington School of Medicine for their foresight and innovation in developing one of the first tests in the country that detects COVID-19.

In November 2019, when the pandemic was reported in China, Greninger, assistant professor of laboratory medicine and pathology, went to Jerome, professor of laboratory medicine and pathology, about developing a test that could detect the virus that causes COVID-19.

The rest is history.

On March 2, 2020, the UW Medicine Clinical Virology Lab received federal Emergency Use Authorization to use their rt-PCR test as a diagnostic tool for UW Medicine patients. 

The test was a moment of positive news and hope in ending the pandemic. News crews descended on testing sites opened by UW Medicine in parking garages of its hospitals.

“Our ability to care for our patients in UW Medicine was clearly enabled by your timely development of a SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic test, and your ongoing use of that test across our regional communities, at high capacity, is a tangible manifestation of our mission, to improve the health of the public,” Dr. Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the UW School of Medicine, wrote to the awardees in a letter of congratulation.

Not only did Jerome and Greninger create a test, but they needed to massively scale-up testing at the UW Medicine Clinical Virology Lab. Jerome is director of the lab, and Greninger is assistant director.

By winter of 2020, the UW Medicine Clinical Virology Lab went from three PCR machines to more than 30 high-volume machines. The lab worked with the School of Medicine to secure equipment and space. By Oct. 27, the lab had tested 1 million nasal swabs. Now, it's over 2 million.

Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) said testing played a key role in Washington state’s ability to manage the pandemic; he recently toured the lab to see it firsthand.

“It is said that the best use of diagnostics is to apply the right test to the right patient at the right time,” Inslee said in a letter to Jerome and Greninger congratulating them on the award. “Your efforts provided us with the right test at the right time, so that our healthcare providers could take care of our residents when it was needed most.”

For more on their story, see award announcement.

- Bobbi Nodell,, 206.543.7129

For details about UW Medicine, please visit

Tags:pathologyvirologyCOVID-19 testing

UW Medicine