Covid-19 testing megalab opens in West Midlands

The UK’s largest Covid-19 testing laboratory has opened and been hailed by the Health Secretary as a “centrepiece” of the country’s management of coronavirus outbreaks into the future.

The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory in Royal Leamington Spa will initially process and sequence thousands of Covid-19 tests each week, according to a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The department said the megalab had been named after DNA pioneer and chemist Ms Franklin “in recognition of her outstanding contribution to our current understanding of genomic sequencing – one of our weapons in the fight against Covid-19”.

The laboratory will also create 1,500 skilled jobs when fully staffed, with more than 300 working already employed and another 700 joining in the near future.

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It will use cutting-edge technology to complete pioneering genotype assay testing to quickly identify coronavirus variants of concern and new mutations.

“This will help the UK’s disease detectives take action to supress outbreaks as society reopens, using tools such as surge testing,” the DHSC statement added.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This laboratory will be one of the centrepieces of our efforts to manage this virus in the future, processing hundreds of thousands of positive Covid-19 tests a day to help us stop cases becoming outbreaks.

“Testing has already been instrumental in helping us control the virus and it is going to be essential to continue to protect ourselves and our communities in the months ahead. I’d urge everyone to take up our offer of free, twice weekly rapid testing.”

The DHSC said the megalab sits at the heart of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which is led by former deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries.

Dr Harries said the megalab “is going to be a critical scientific addition to how we manage this virus in the months ahead, arming us with data and intelligence on the spread of variants that will inform decision-making and ultimately, save lives”.