The rapid creation of three new Lighthouse Labs in Milton Keynes, Glasgow and Alderley Park in Cheshire is increasing the country’s capacity to test for coronavirus, with each site scaling up to test tens of thousands of patient samples each day.
Each individual site took just three weeks to complete and begin testing.
The new mega-labs are staffed by an army of highly qualified staff and volunteers from industry and academia, drawn from across the country.
These groups are working tirelessly to rapidly analyse coronavirus tests for NHS, social care and other frontline workers, allowing those testing negative to safely and quickly return to work.
The Lighthouse Labs will test samples from drive-through testing sites, with new sites set up nearly each day across the UK. Work is ongoing to set up 50 of these drive-through sites, and there are now 27 in operation, including in Wembley, Manchester and Glasgow.
Thanks to increased testing capacity the government is extending testing to a wider group of frontline workers in addition to patients, NHS or social care workers who need one. Frontline workers who are eligible – have symptoms of coronavirus, a high temperature or new continuous cough – and would like to be tested should speak to their employer.
See the updated guidance on getting tested.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We have set out our ambition to meet the challenge of achieving a 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month.
“A stream of new testing and diagnostic facilities are being brought online, and the completion of the Lighthouse Lab network is an historic moment.
“This is truly a national effort, backed by Britain’s world-class scientists and industry partners, including teams of expert volunteers supporting the new mega-labs to rapidly increase our testing capacity. Together their efforts will allow key frontline workers testing negative for the virus to return safely to work.”
The new Lighthouse Labs have been created through a partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, Medicines Discovery Catapult, UK Biocentre and the University of Glasgow. Their development is being closely supported by both NHS and Public Health England.
Dozens of universities, research institutes and companies across Britain are lending their testing equipment to the new hub laboratories for the duration of the immediate need for high capacity testing. No equipment already in use for coronavirus testing or research has been taken.
The sites are working in collaboration with devolved national health services and governments, industry and academia and will be supported by a national advisory network of scientific, clinical and operational experts.
- The Milton Keynes facility is hosted by the UK Biocentre, who are funded by the National Institute for Healthcare Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).
- The Alderley Park facility is hosted by the Medicines Discovery Catapult, working closely with AstraZeneca.
- The Glasgow facility is hosted by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the Scottish Government and expertise from BioAscent Discovery Ltd and the University of Dundee.