Prime Minister thanks scientists for testing more than a million COVID-19 samples
Prime Minister thanks scientists for testing more than a million COVID-19 samples.
The Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, met scientists and toured UK Biocentre’s COVID-19 testing laboratories in Milton Keynes today. Mr Johnson saw first-hand the scale of the highly automated operation at UK Biocentre which tests tens of thousands of samples every day.

The Prime Minister was greeted by Dr Tony Cox, UK Biocentre Chief Executive, and toured the laboratories to speak with scientists and hear how they have ramped up testing capacity to analyse swab samples in a matter of hours on an industrial scale. He thanked the scientists for their work, many of whom are volunteering to support the national testing effort.

UK Biocentre and other Lighthouse Labs now receive tens of thousands of anonymised COVID-19 samples every day from the drive through testing centres, mobile testing units and direct from people’s homes.

The Prime Minister’s visit marks the end of a landmark week for UK Biocentre after passing the significant milestone of testing one million COVID-19 swab samples since it became operational 12 weeks ago. Since installing more robots UK Biocentre has been able to process large numbers of swab samples rapidly – 500,000 of the swab samples were analysed in the last three weeks.

The Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, said: 'Carrying out more than 1 million samples here is a fantastic achievement. The work you are doing here and in all the other laboratories is tremendous - it really does help the national testing effort and will help us get on top of this virus.'

Dr Tony Cox, UK Biocentre CEO, said:
“We were delighted to welcome the Prime Minister today. From a standing start twelve weeks ago we have developed an automated testing facility capable of analysing tens of thousands of samples every day. Given the large volumes we are able to test, UK Biocentre and the other Lighthouse Labs are playing a vital role supporting the national testing effort to help halt the spread of the coronavirus. The UK is now in a strong position to meet current and future testing requirements. 
UK Biocentre’s 24/7 operation would not be possible without the support of universities and other partners who have loaned us equipment and the volunteer scientists who are using their expertise to deactivate the virus when it arrives, operate liquid handling robots, perform RNA extraction, and run the real-time PCR assays which form vital elements of our testing process.”

Thanks to vital support from partners, UK Biocentre has expanded rapidly by installing state-of-the-art robotic equipment and other technology enabling scientists to analyse at industrial scale. Large amounts of equipment needed to provide a fully automated service have been installed. Accurate test results remain the number one priority and UK Biocentre continues to be supported by the NHS and Public Health England to ensure the highest standards of accuracy are achieved at industrial scale. To meet the growing demand, UK Biocentre’s staff team has been joined by an army of more than 150 volunteer scientists – including molecular scientists, technicians and bioinformaticians - to deliver a high throughput, 24/7 analysis service for as long as is needed.

UK Biocentre is one of the four Lighthouse Labs and is proud to acknowledge the many private and public organisations who are partnering in this unprecedented effort, including Thermo Fisher Scientific, Tecan and Brooks, as well as Public Health England, NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care. 

UK Biocentre is a subsidiary of UK Biobank and was established to share expertise of high-throughput sample handling with other academic partners. UK Biobank is a national health resource following the lives of 500,000 participants and providing key data for a wide range of health studies, including those into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Share this article