After getting an overseas laboratory test for Covid-19 working in New Zealand - with Associate Professor James Ussher - Quiñones-Mateu was in the lab for much of lockdown. He, Postdoctoral Fellow Rhodri Harfoot and a small team grew the virus from patient samples, turning a healthy carpet of cells in a flask discoloured and patchy. They isolated and sequenced the RNA - genetic code - and became the only lab in the country to have the virus.
While most people tried to avoid the coronavirus, Miguel Quiñones-Mateu grew it.
It happened under strict controls - he's a virologist, and a professor at the University of Otago's Dunedin campus.Those in the lab had full protection, including a helmet and respirator, shoe covers, double gloves and tape - and a shower on the way out.
"Can you imagine if we had a virus that transmits this well, like [the virus which causes Covid-19] but it kills 35 per cent of the people?" he said. "This is bad, but it's not that bad, to be honest."
Pictured is professor and virologist Miguel Quiñones-Mateu, who holds the Webster Family Chair in Viral Pathogenisis.
Researchers soon wanted to collaborate on everything from cleaning and sanitising products to the Kiwi vaccine effort."If you want to find a way to kill it, as an antiviral, or to prevent it, as a vaccine, you need to have access to the virus," Quiñones-Mateu said.