Imperial College London

Imperial’s new COVID-19 testing lab goes live

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This month— February 2021—Imperial College London opened its new COVID-19 testing lab on its South Kensington Campus.

Imperials new COVID-19 testing lab (Photo: Thomas Angus/Imperial College London)

This month Imperial College London opened its new COVID-19 testing lab on its South Kensington Campus.

The new Imperial College London Laboratory forms part of the Department of Health and Social Care's partnership with the London Testing Alliance, brought together by life science cluster MedCity in December 2020. Imperial, Health Service Laboratories in partnership with UCL, King’s Health Partners, and Queen Mary University of London are together increasing COVID-19 testing capacity by 20,500 per day.

The London Testing Alliance covers swab tests from the community, including those from members of the public, key workers, and care homes. The forms part of the largest network of diagnostic facilities in the country’s history.

The platform is reagent-agnostic, providing flexibility to respond to supply disruptions
The platform is reagent-agnostic, providing flexibility to respond to supply disruptions (Photo: Thomas Angus/Imperial College London)

Tried and tested

Imperial’s contribution to the Testing Alliance, supported by Imperial Projects, is based on an expansion of the College’s existing in-house testing facility on the St Mary’s Campus.

Imperial’s Molecular Diagnostic Unit (MDU), set up and led by Professor Myra McClure, being United Kingdom Accredited Service (UKAS) accredited, was well placed to take on the new challenge presented by COVID-19 in March 2020. The MDU’s expanded testing capacity is based on partnership with Professor Paul Freemont’s team and their repurposing of an existing high-throughput robotic platform for RNA extraction.

The expanded facility has created over fifty new positions, including the recruitment of graduates from Imperial’s MSc in Molecular Biology and Pathology of Viruses, hosted by the Department of Infectious Disease.  These, and other graduates, are now the core of the expanded team that ramping up Imperial’s COVID-19 testing capability.

  • This week Imperial College London opened its new COVID-19 testing lab on its South Kensington Campus
  • This week Imperial College London opened its new COVID-19 testing lab on its South Kensington Campus
  • This week Imperial College London opened its new COVID-19 testing lab on its South Kensington Campus
  • This week Imperial College London opened its new COVID-19 testing lab on its South Kensington Campus
  • This week Imperial College London opened its new COVID-19 testing lab on its South Kensington Campus
  • This week Imperial College London opened its new COVID-19 testing lab on its South Kensington Campus

“A privilege from day one”

Professor Graham Taylor, Head of the Section of Virology and Imperial College London Partner Laboratory lead, spoke passionately about what the team had achieved to date: “It has been a privilege from day one to see the response of Imperial’s staff and students to the pandemic as it impacted locally:

Professor Graham Taylor, pictured here in 2015
Professor Graham Taylor, pictured here in 2015

“From the volunteer staff and students during the first lockdown who brought this project into being; through the incredible efforts of laboratory managers and admin team who have given tirelessly their experience; from estates, architects and builders who delivered the new facility on time and on budget; to the lab team who have worked all hours to deliver, rapidly and diligently, the assays that they know impact so many. I’m extremely proud of the manner in which they have stepped up, owned and developed this service”.

Professor Jonathan Weber, Dean of Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine, said: “I heartily congratulate Graham Taylor, Paul Freemont and all their laboratory colleagues in getting this new lab commissioned and running so efficiently.

“This new lab allows Imperial to support the Department of Health and Social Care, while continuing to be one of the few UK universities to run an in-house COVID-19 asymptomatic testing programme for the safety of all our students and staff.”

Lord Bethell, Health Minister, said: “I am delighted this London University partner lab, operated by Imperial College London, is now up and running. It is part of Britain’s largest-ever network of diagnostic testing facilities and will play an important role in our work to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“I would like to thank everyone involved at Imperial College London for their hard work establishing and running this lab. Testing is absolutely crucial to tackling COVID-19 and breaking the chains of transmission.”


All photos: Thomas Angus/Imperial College London

Supporters

Reporters

Mr Al McCartney

Mr Al McCartney
Faculty of Medicine Centre

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2961
Email: a.mccartney@imperial.ac.uk

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Thomas Angus [Photographer]

Thomas Angus [Photographer]
Communications and Public Affairs

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2858
Email: t.angus@imperial.ac.uk

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