New 'mega-lab' opens to boost testing and sequencing capacity
A new ‘mega-lab’ facility has been opened in Leamington Spa, England that will significantly expand the UK’s testing and genomic sequencing capacity for COVID-19. The new laboratory site is 225,000 square-feet and will be a key centre for processing COVID-19 tests and sequencing to protect the United Kingdom from variants of concern such as the Delta and Delta Plus strains of the virus. The laboratory is named the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory – a title to honour a scientist whose pioneering research into viruses, DNA and RNA remain of lasting benefit to the scientific and wider world.
Not only is the testing centre of use to the Government’s fight against COVID-19, it will benefit the local economy, with up to 1,500 future jobs to be created and supply chains, suppliers supported also. This will provide a boost to the local area, and fuel recruitment of life sciences graduates and professionals. Further, the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory has built relationships with several universities in the region whose students will benefit through formal placements and training. Its team has developed four PhD and 12 undergraduate placements, starting from July, for students from the University of Warwick, Birmingham City University and Nottingham Trent University.
The facility will utilise the latest testing equipment and technological approaches. Some of these advancements include the LGC EndPoint PCR testing workflow for COVID-19. This system has an ultra-high capacity and can process up to 150,000 tests each day on a single machine. Automation and robotics will also be used at the site to increase capacity for coronavirus testing.
High throughput genomic sequencing will take place in tandem with COVID-19 test processing. When this process is fully up-and-running, there will be up to 50,000 sequences added to the UK’s capacity per week.
The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory will serve as one of the Government’s ‘centrepieces’ in the effort to contain and control COVID-19 outbreaks and mutations in this country. Mr Sajid Javid, Health and Social Care Secretary has praised the valuable role played by the IVD testing industry during the pandemic. "Testing has already been instrumental in helping us control the virus and it is going to be essential to continue to protect ourselves and our communities in the months ahead," he said.