- Two new very high throughput laboratories will open in early 2021, cementing the UK as a world leader in diagnostics and creating up to 4,000 jobs
- Both labs, the first based in Leamington Spa and the second in Scotland, will add 600,000 of daily testing capacity altogether when operating at full capacity, meaning faster turnaround times for test results
- These new labs form a key part of the UK’s national infrastructure to respond to future epidemics as well as adding diagnostic capacity for other critical illnesses, including cancer
Today the government is announcing the opening of 2 new ‘megalabs’ which will become operational in early 2021. The 2 labs, based in Leamington Spa with a second lab located in Scotland, will each add 300,000 to the UK’s daily testing capacity when operating at full capacity.
Cutting-edge technology made by British manufacturers will be used in both labs, including automation, robotics and consumables. This means more tests will be processed more quickly and at a lower cost, and therefore faster turnaround times for test results.
As part of its response to COVID-19, the government has already established the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history. The announcement today of these next generation of diagnostic facilities represents an investment in the UK’s epidemic response infrastructure for the future. Not only will the 2 labs be used to process COVID-19 tests, but the significant boost in diagnostic capabilities will be used for critical illness including cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
The new labs will generate local employment, with each very high throughput laboratory having a multi-skilled workforce of up to 2,000 people once fully staffed, and operating at full capacity 24/7, including the associated manufacturing and supply chain. A recruitment drive has already started for the Leamington Spa lab, and a campaign is due to start shortly in Scotland once site details are confirmed.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
The radical expansion of testing has been one of the successes of this pandemic, as it means more people can get a test more conveniently than ever before. We didn’t go into this crisis with a significant diagnostics industry, but we have built one, and these 2 mega labs are another step forward. Transforming the UK’s diagnostic facilities is not only essential to beating this virus, but it is necessary to build back better – so we are better prepared in future for testing on a massive scale.
These mega labs are future-proofing our national infrastructure to respond to future epidemics and improving care for other diseases, such as cancer. The new labs build on our existing testing network which we created in a matter of months and confirms the UK as a world leader in diagnostics.
The work going on in these labs is ultimately working to save lives and I am hugely grateful for everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said:
The new very high throughput labs are being set up by leaders of science with decades of experience. At the same time, we are creating thousands of jobs for the diagnostics sector to strengthen it now and for the future. Anyone who joins these labs will be offered the opportunity to learn new skills while receiving training in a lab environment.
This work is absolutely crucial to tackling COVID-19 and enabling the return of more normality to our lives.
Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding, said:
As we continue to open more test sites and roll out more mass testing pilots, we need to keep expanding the UK’s testing capacity, for now and the future.
We have already reached our goal of 500,000 testing capacity per day by the end of October, but we have not stopped. Our lab network includes the NHS, academia, the not-for-profit and the private sector and the addition of these new labs will mean another step up in our testing capacity next year.
Not only will that mean more tests, but it will also mean they can be processed more quickly, and the time it takes to receive results is reduced.
Since the start of the pandemic, in addition to developing capacity within the NHS, 5 lighthouse laboratories have been built, with another opening next month. Further partnerships with laboratories and short-term surge have boosted UK testing capacity from 100,000 test per day at the end of April to over 500,000 tests per day at the end of October.
The government is committed to continue expanding the capacity of the network of 650 UK test sites and laboratories to make it even easier to get tested and reduce the time it takes to receive test results, with the median distance needed to travel to a test centre at just 2.7 miles.