How can biotech and research laboratories across the UK help with Covid-19 testing?

Why should my lab convert to testing?

 

Everyone agrees that testing is a central part of the strategy for managing COVID-19 and ending lockdown.


Testing capacity is severely constrained, anyone who can contribute something to the effort of increasing testing capacity should do so.


Read some of the case studies on this site, to see the difference even a small lab can make for their local community.

 

Who should I join the network?

 

Our network is focussed on performing RT-PCR based testing. If you have a Category 2 or higher lab facility and personnel experienced in operating RT-PCR machines, we can probably provide everything else you need to get testing.

 

How does your Network fit with the central government testing program?

 

It complements the government testing programme by providing additional capacity at a local level with machines operated in-situ. The data on the labs, machines, trained staff, consumables, the number of tests completed, and test outcomes will be shared with the central testing programme.


What if the Government wants my RT-PCR machine for the central testing program?

 

If the Government wants your machine, then you should give it to them. However, the central testing program is being selective about which machines it wants (so it can operate a repeatable process at scale). It is more than likely you have a machine that the Government doesn't want, that you can use to provide COVID-19 testing to your local community.



What are the laboratory requirements?

 

The government has set out requirements for labs they would like to work within two documents, in summary, these are:

 

Capable of processing more than 3000 tests a week
ISO 17025 or 15189 or similar accredited
A Category 3 or 2+ laboratory
Automated RNA extraction
Automated results analysis
Using open platform consumables, that are not in contention with those used by the NHS
End to end electronic sample tracking


In contrast, our requirements are:

  •  A Category 2 or higher laboratory (we will help you meet the 2+ requirements)
    Motivated lab personnel experienced with operating RT-PCR based protocols

Our requirements are different because we welcome labs that are lower throughput
We will help you with standard operating procedures and partner you with ISO-accredited labs to ensure you are able to repeatably carry out tests in a safe and effective way.



Who will my lab be testing?


We encourage labs to test staff in local GP surgeries and care homes. The surgeries themselves will identify those most at risk; this will include patient-facing staff who are likely to infect others.


This makes the logistics of providing, administering and collecting swabs much simpler. We can help you with setting this up.

 

Labs are not typically offering to test to patients or care, home residents, this should be conducted by the main testing program.


Why should I join the network?


We are here to facilitate getting you set up and testing as quickly as possible. To that end, we will help you with whatever you need help with. Each lab is different and needs different help, but this might include:

  • Funding for testing supplies and staff
  • Sourcing testing consumables
  • RT-PCR machines
  • Lab standard operating procedures and test protocols
  • Logistics of swabbing
  • Documents and processes with GP practices/Care homes
  • Connections with other labs already testing
  • Provision of PPE

Are you working with the NHS/PHE/DHSC?


We are in dialogue with them and they are aware of what we and labs in our network are doing. We are doing our best to integrate with the central testing programme where we can.

 

Isn’t there a shortage of the consumables needed to run tests?


At times there are shortages of particular consumables, but because of the diverse range of platforms across our network, and because many of our labs are running manual or smaller scale equipment we can generally be more flexible in what consumables we are sourcing.


The DHSC has provided us with lists of consumables that they would like us to steer clear of, and we do. These are typically consumables that are specific to very large automated machines.



I cannot run tests, how else can I help?


Alongside recruiting labs to conduct testing, we are creating three associated UK-wide frameworks to register and administer support in the form of:

 

A network of Non-testing Labs that would like to help with validating new consumables, test kits and protocols.


A network of experienced scientists, technicians and lab managers who are willing to join other lab's teams or are relevant experts who would be able to give support to the labs from home

 

A register of 'dormant' RT-PCR machines and their potential availability
These frameworks support both our distributed testing network and the Government's NTCs. The needs of the NCTs will have priority.

 

We can provide labs / equipment

Our laboratory would like to offer testing, equipment or volunteers

We can provide labs / equipment

Our laboratory would like to offer testing, equipment or volunteers

Case Study
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Anonymous Surgery

 

This GP surgery was one of the first surgery’s invited to join the COVID-19 Testing Network to receive testing for their frontline staff. The practice has 10,000 patients and currently didn’t know where they stood in terms of staff having COVID-19...

Testimonial

Mike Fischer CBE

 

"If other labs could join the effort we could quickly scale to providing tens of thousands of tests a day in complement to the central program."

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