Nebraska Public Health Laboratory

The Nebraska Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) is a cooperative partnership among the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NE-DHHS), and Nebraska Medicine. This partnership was formed in1997 when the state legislature and governor established the NPHL in Omaha. The original focus of testing was to provide support for state-sponsored prevention programs for the detection of sexually transmitted diseases, enteric diseases such as salmonellosis, and respiratory diseases such as influenza. In 1999, testing at NPHL was expanded to include testing for bio-threat agents in environmental samples and the detection of chemical agents in human specimens through grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This unique arrangement between UNMC and NE-DHHS has resulted in a saving of millions of tax dollars and has leveraged expertise of existing UNMC personnel and state-of-the-art equipment for the benefit of all Nebraskans.

A laboratory facility is located on the eighth floor of the Durham Research Center II tower. The management and operation of the laboratory is overseen by individuals within the Department of Pathology and Microbiology and include Peter Iwen, PhD, director; Baha Abdalhamid, MD, PhD, associate director; and Emily McCutchen, manager. Today the NPHL performs a variety of routine and specialized testing for the State including blood leads, surveillance for novel influenza viruses and West Nile virus testing in mosquitoes. The NPHL has an extensive outreach and education program throughout the entire state, and helps facilitate the transportation of specimens across the state to the NPHL. Two special projects include the STAT-PACK program that provides for the secure long distance consultation with clinical laboratories, and the FTIR-RAMAN spectroscopy proficiency testing program.

NPHL has been involved in Ebola virus response and support to Nebraska Medicine biocontainment unit. However, COVID-19 has been the main focus for the last year and a half, and NPHL has administered over 100,000 COVID tests for Nebraska and does 80% of its sequencing to ID current and new variants.  For more information, please see the following UNMC Today articles: UNMC study confirms COVID air transmission and UNMC study explores COVID -19, lung diseases.

For current information about what is happening in NPHL please explore their newsletter.