Two COVID-19 diagnostic ‘megalabs’ to open in 2021

Labs in Leamington Spa and Scotland will add 600,000 to UK's daily testing capacity

16 November, 2020 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

Two ‘megalabs’, one in Scotland, will open early next year and will each add 300,000 to the UK’s daily testing capacity when operating at full capacity, the UK Government has announced.

“Cutting-edge technology made by British manufacturers will be used in both labs, including automation, robotics and consumables. This means more tests will be processed more quickly and at a lower cost, and therefore faster turnaround times for test results,” it said.

“As part of its response to COVID-19, the UK Government has already established the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history.

“The announcement today of these next generation of diagnostic facilities represents an investment in the UK’s epidemic response infrastructure for the future. Not only will the two labs be used to process COVID-19 tests, but the significant boost in diagnostic capabilities will be used for critical illness including cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.”

The new labs will generate local employment, said the Government, with each one having a multi-skilled workforce of up to 2,000 people once fully staffed, and operating at full capacity 24/7, including the associated manufacturing and supply chain. A recruitment drive has started for the Leamington Spa lab, and a campaign is due to start shortly in Scotland once a site is confirmed.

Matt Hancock, the UK Government’s Health Secretary, said: “The radical expansion of testing has been one of the successes of this pandemic, as it means more people can get a test more conveniently than ever before. We didn’t go into this crisis with a significant diagnostics industry, but we have built one, and these two mega labs are another step forward.

“Transforming the UK’s diagnostic facilities is not only essential to beating this virus, but it is necessary to build back better – so we are better prepared in future for testing on a massive scale.

“These mega labs are future-proofing our national infrastructure to respond to future epidemics and improving care for other diseases, such as cancer. The new labs build on our existing testing network which we created in a matter of months and confirms the UK as a world leader in diagnostics.

“The work going on in these labs is ultimately working to save lives and I am hugely grateful for everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this.”

Jeane Freeman, Scotland’s Health Secretary, said: “The establishment of a COVID-19 ultra-high throughput lab in Scotland is an important step in our fight against the virus. When fully operational this highly sensitive diagnostic laboratory will process up to 300,000 samples a day, significantly increasing the testing and diagnostic capacity of the country.

“The location of the megalab in Scotland is still to be confirmed and we are working closely with our counterparts in the UK Government on this.

“The facility, which will follow on from the lab in Leamington Spa, will also have the flexibility to provide diagnostic capability in the future for other diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and will support Scotland’s growing precision medicine industry.

“In addition the lab is also expected to create around 1800 jobs once fully operational.”

Tags: Covid-19 / testing

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