Sixto Leal, M.D., Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Fungal Reference Laboratory and assistant professor in the Department of Pathology, has been recognized for his work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leal has been named to Pathologist’s 2021 Power List.
The Power List celebrates inspirational minds in the medical laboratory, through six different categories. Leal was featured in the Front(line) and Center category for his efforts in breakthrough COVID-19 testing throughout the pandemic. Although Leal’s lab was not originally used for molecular testing, he and his team used their lab to help establish PCR testing at the onset of the pandemic and was the first to establish viral genome sequencing enabling the identification of all major viral variants of concern in the state of Alabama.
In March 2020, Leal and his team created their own COVID-19 PCR test, when no commercial systems were available. This test was one of the first in the nation to obtain emergency use authorization and exhibited the highest sensitivity in a nationwide FDA comparison study. Through their efforts, Leal’s team was able to increase the rate of COVID-19 testing from 150 tests a day to more than 11,300 tests each day.