A MAJOR coronaviris testing facility based in Glasgow is now operational.

The Lighthouse Lab has officially started testing samples for COVID-19, and will work along sites in Milton Keynes and Alderley Park in what is being described as the biggest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history.

The newly operational lab will will test samples from the regional test centres where NHS staff and frontline workers with suspected COVID-19 infections are tested.

It is hoped the lab will quickly move towards processing several thousand tests per day, before scaling up further to tens of thousands of tests per day.

READ MORE: Coronavirus LIVE: Scotland's death toll hits 1616 - with 513 in Glasgow alone

The Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow is hosted by the University of Glasgow at their Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus, and opened in collaboration with the Scottish Government, industry experts from BioAscent and the University of Dundee, and the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute.

Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, University of Glasgow Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, who leads the team said: “I am pleased that after weeks of hard work and continued effort by all involved, the University of Glasgow can now deliver the country new, large-scale testing facility, in conjunction with our industry partners and the NHS.

“I remain incredibly grateful to all partners and colleagues who have volunteered their time, expertise and skills for this testing facility. As a result of their willingness to help, we haveequipped, staffed and set-up a new testing facility that is now operational and will be vitally important in the NHS efforts against this coronavirus pandemic.

"It has been said all over the world and confirmed by the WHO that we have to test, test and test more to fight the virus that has killed so many.”

The Lighthouse Labs are being established across the UK to analyse samples taken from regional testing centres.

Key worker testing will be carried out at drive-through facilities before samples are assigned and delivered to the closest Lighthouse Lab with capacity. 

It is anticipated that the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow will process tests from across the UK, however as the number of tests undertaken in Scotland increases, the Glasgow Lab will work to service these in the first instance. 

In Scotland there are currently three regional testing centres in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

The Lab is currently equipped with 20 protective cabinets sourced from the University of Glasgow, a fleet of fast high throughput ThermoFisher PCR machines and RNA extractors.

Much of the equipment has been sourced from University of Glasgow labs, and moved to the new testing centre in order to make rapid COVID-19 response work possible. 

The Glasgow facility will be staffed on a 24/7 basis by around 100 staff members.

More than 800 volunteers came forward to help with the facility, including highly experiences molecular scientists, technicians and bioinformaticians – all with the relevant skills and experience to carry out COVID-19 testing. 

The facility has been made possible through the work and commitment of partners, volunteers and University of Glasgow staff, including lab technicians, IT services and colleagues from the Professional Services across the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences in Glasgow.

The Lighthouse Lab is situated in the University of Glasgow’s Clinical Innovation Zone, a space that was designed to meet industrial scale standards and was therefore readily able to be transformed into a testing facility in response to the COVID-19 UK outbreak.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “The UK Government has committed to expanding our testing capacity across the UK.

"The completion of our network with the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow is a tremendous achievement for all the partners in such challenging circumstances and only five weeks after this project was started.

“Scotland has world-class universities and I am pleased they have been involved in this UK-wide effort as we work together to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Dr Phil Jones, BioAscent’s Chief Scientific Officer, added: “BioAscent is extremely proud to be able to help in this critical work and provide on-site technical expertise needed to set up the testing facility. 

"We’ve been able to contribute our know-how in vital disciplines including high-throughput screening, assay development and sample logistics, all of which are areas of specialism for the company.  

"We think the Lighthouse Labs represent a great example of collaboration between SMEs, like BioAscent, Universities and large companies with a shared common goal to quash COVID.” 

The Lighthouse Labs UK are coordinated by Chris Molloy of the Medicines Discovery Catapult , and the project is supported by partners ThermoFisher Scientific, Amazon, Boots and Royal Mail, alongside the Wellcome Trust. 

The Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow is supported by two local partners, the BioAscent and the University of Dundee.


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