Looking back at an extraordinary couple of years and looking forward to a bright future
Looking back at an extraordinary couple of years and looking forward to a bright future.
The last couple of years have been punctuated by some extraordinary milestones for UK Biocentre. It's just been the most incredible ride.

We have been testing in excess of 100,000 COVID-19 samples a day and a total of 30 million tests over a period of two years. That's an immense number – just vast. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that we were going to be able to do that, I would have laughed. I’m very, very proud of what we’ve done – I think it’s an amazing achievement. 

You don't know what you can do until you try, but you can only do that if you work as a team, and you're supported by fantastic partners. We’re very lucky that we’ve had a lot of help from a wide range of organisations – not only collaborations with Oxford University and the Department of Health, but commercial partners such as LGC and Tecan.

In the heady days of early 2020, I got a call from Sir John Bell to tell me that we were going to have to change our labs to do COVID testing. Up until that point, it had been a fairly quiet laboratory – we were just doing our own thing, keeping a low profile, trying to do the best we could. 

Then suddenly, all hell broke loose. From that point on, it seemed like a continuous cycle of scale up, change the buildings around, scale up again, recruit more people, get more equipment. And although I would say that at times it's been pretty stressful, with bumps along the road, I can honestly say that I would not change a minute of it. We kept our focus and did some fantastic things. 

The switch to shift work when we realised, we had to go to 24 hour days was a huge change. During that initial period, many of us basically lived away from home – I know I did for four months – so there were some considerable personal sacrifices as well as professional ones. And we're very grateful for the contribution that so many people have made.

Quite apart from that, you just can’t fail to recognise the number of staff that have passed through our organisation over this time – close to 2,000 people. I hope that they've had the opportunity to gain new skills, new interests, new friends, new potential colleagues in the future, and to grow that potential for their careers. And being able to offer those opportunities has been a great thing.

Looking back, I think UK Biocentre has grown very significantly: we've got new capabilities. I think we've got an organisational sense of confidence that taking on big new projects at this point is not something that we're going to worry about. As an organisation that's exceptionally valuable. I don't think there's anything that UK Biocentre couldn't achieve if we put our mind to it now.

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