Our laboratories in Milton Keynes are at the forefront of the national COVID-19 testing effort. We have now analysed several million swab samples. We are one of several Lighthouse Labs
– the biggest network of diagnostic testing facilities our country has ever seen.
Since being commissioned by the UK Government to provide this service, we have repurposed existing laboratories and built new ones to provide the capacity required to analyse swab samples at scale.
Initially an army of volunteer scientists tested swabs manually whilst helping us develop a wholly automated process. Now liquid handling robots and other kit and machinery fill our laboratories.
As a result, we are now testing tens of thousands of samples each day.
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for updates and to hear from our volunteer scientists.
You cannot be tested for COVID-19 at UK Biocentre
It’s very important to clarify that UK Biocentre is not a medical centre that tests people. Our role is solely to analyse swab samples.
If you need to be tested, you should contact the NHS Coronavirus service
How we test swab samples
Once someone has been tested for COVID-19 the swab sample is sent to our laboratories. We receive samples from a range of sources including people’s homes and the COVID-19 drive-through testing centres. UK Biocentre experts analyse each swab sample to determine whether COVID-19 is present.
Accurate results at scale through automation
With the support of numerous partners, we have installed state-of-the-art robotic equipment and other technology that enables us to analyse tens of thousands of samples in a matter of hours each day. Accuracy remains our number one priority, and we continue to work closely with the NHS and PHE to ensure we meet the highest standards every time. We are working very closely with partners and suppliers to ensure vital equipment, some of which is in global short supply, reaches our laboratories.
Working with expert scientists to meet growing demand
To meet the growing demand, we have increased the number of people working with us. From a staff team of just 35, we have had the support of over 500 scientists,
working with us on shift patters 24/7. We are very grateful to all the highly experienced molecular scientists, technicians and bioinformaticians who support us.
The UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce is supporting efforts to rapidly develop a safe, effective and accessible coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible. Clinical trials are underway to assess whether the Oxford coronavirus vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, developed by the University of Oxford in collaboration with biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, protects against COVID-19. UK Biocentre is regularly testing swabs as part of this effort.
UK Biocentre is uniquely placed to support at this time
We have the capability to accurately analyse large volumes of samples, and we have the space and expertise to continue to expand our operations. We are working closely with our partners in the Lighthouse Lab network, and we are proud to acknowledge the many private and public organisations who are partnering with us. These include Thermo Fisher Scientific, Tecan and Brooks, as well as Public Health England, the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care.
Dr Tony Cox OBE, Chief Executive of UK Biocentre, said:
“Building a national infrastructure for high volume COVID-19 testing is an extraordinarily complex task. The speed and scale of
collaboration between individuals across industry and academia to support these efforts is unprecedented and underlines the crucial nature
of national co-operation in times of emergency. The shared sense of pace and purpose will maximise our ability to support wide scale testing,
and help us understand infection rates and the wider effects of control measures.”
Prof Peter Weissberg, Chairman of UK Biocentre, said:
“I am immensely proud of the way our scientists and other colleagues at Milton Keynes have risen to the challenge of providing this service. It has taken selfless dedication, immense hard work and flexibility to reconfigure our laboratories and working practices in such a short time. I am also enormously grateful to all those from outside our usual workforce, from both private and public sectors, who have offered their services and expertise to ensure we play our part in tackling the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime.”