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USA TODAY

Eight historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have received millions in funding that will allow them to expand and establish on-campus COVID-19 testing facilities.

Thermo Fisher Scientific donated $15 million in diagnostic instruments and test kits to the HBCUs as part of The Just Project, which seeks to address the COVID-19 pandemic in communities of color.

Black Americans have experienced the highest COVID-19 mortality rate (97.9 deaths per 100,000) in the country, more than twice the mortality rate for white Americans, according to analysis by APM Research Lab.

As of Oct. 5, the donations had been given to Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Xavier University of Louisiana, Hampton University, Tuskegee University, Florida A&M University, and North Carolina A&T University, with more expected to be announced.

“Our first priority is to ensure a safe and healthy environment on our campuses,” said Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine, in a statement. “The support we receive from Thermo Fisher Scientific through The Just Project allows us to offer easy access to COVID-19 testing that is so important to getting our students back to school safely.”

Sheream Reed, a student at Meharry’s school of dentistry checks someone in and directs them to the next step for their COVID-19 test at Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church during a testing event where the church teamed up with Meharry Medical College to provide free COVID-19 testing to the public Saturday, June 6, 2020. (Photo: Alan Poizner / For The Tennessean)

The donations will allow the universities to establish or expand on-campus laboratories that can process COVID-19 tests, something that can ensure quicker results but also cut costs for HBCUs previously forced to use third-party labs.

“The pandemic has disproportionately affected the Black community, and historically black colleges and universities have taken a leadership role in making testing available in order to safely reopen this fall,” said Fred Lowery, senior vice president and president of Life Sciences Solutions and Laboratory Products at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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“These schools play an important role in closing the achievement gap in America and consistently train talented STEM professionals who are invaluable to companies like ours seeking to attract top talent and build a more inclusive workplace.”

Patrick Johnson, SVP at Meharry Medical College, speaks during “Conscious Conversation,” a community meeting to discuss the future of Nashville General Hospital held at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill, Thursday, January 11, 2018. (Photo: Alan Poizner / For The Tennessean)

Meharry Medical College’s Dr. Donald Alcendor has been working to develop a COVID-19 antiviral two years after he successfully developed a potential cure for the Zika virus.

Meanwhile, the university’s ability to test students for the novel coronavirus was hindered by a reliance on third-party labs,