January 20, 2022

Earn Money

Business Life

We’re mobilising the ingenuity of the British life sciences industry to defeat coronavirus

The fight against coronavirus is one of the greatest public health challenges that we have faced as a nation. And it is only natural that people are looking for certainty about their status, and are looking for the clarity that good quality testing can provide. So they can understand whether they currently have the virus or whether they have had it in the past.

The rollout of Public Health England’s Covid-19 diagnostic test is the fastest deployment of a novel test in recent history, even faster than the swine flu pandemic in 2009. However, we need to further boost our testing capability and are doing so in a number of ways. So we can first and foremost ensure that testing is available for patients who need it; then expand testing of critical NHS staff and members of their household; followed by testing of other front-line workers; and then the community as a whole.

Last week, I was alongside Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the Government’s daily media briefing, where he set out a five pillar plan to meet the challenge of getting to 100,000 tests per day, by the end of this month. He also announced that I would be taking on a new role to co-ordinate this national effort for testing, and I am delighted to be playing a part in this vital work.

The fifth pillar of this plan is to build a national effort for diagnostics, mass testing capacity at a totally new scale. We have some of the best scientific labs in the world, but we do not have the huge diagnostic industry that some other countries have. So we are going to have to build on what we have to get what we need.

So many of our top end manufacturers have been joining the national effort to build ventilators, and it has been heartening to see our fantastic pharmaceutical and diagnostics industries also responding in an unprecedented fashion.

Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed

For example, the pharmaceutical giants GSK and AstraZeneca, along with Cambridge University, have set up a new testing laboratory, and are also providing expert advice on automation and robotics to support the Government’s new national testing centers for front-line NHS workers. This will significantly expand our testing capacity to determine if people have the virus, and help our dedicated NHS workers – to start with – get back to the front line. 

The US life sciences company Thermo Fisher has also committed to supplying the UK with the testing kits we need and is working to scale up manufacturing at its existing UK sites; and Oxford Nanopore’s sequencing technology is being used in UK labs to rapidly sequence coronavirus. These are just a few examples. There are many, many more all across the UK. 

These companies are being supported in every way possible, including accelerated regulatory approval, centralised procurement support where appropriate, and in some cases, development grants.

Alongside this vital work, we are working hard to rapidly test, develop and roll out antibody tests that would be able to determine if someone has developed immunity after overcoming the virus.

To date, none of the antibody tests we’ve put through the validation process have been accurate enough to be safely deployed. Using these tests would not only give people false hope, but it could be dangerous too.

So we are ramping up our efforts to develop our own home-grown test, and to boost these efforts, we are offering a range of Government support. This includes a business consortium, including Oxford University, Abingdon Health, BBI Solutions and CIGA Healthcare, which is working hard to rapidly develop a reliable antibody test as quickly as possible that can be safely deployed to the wider population. Whether it’s universities and labs donating testing capacity, or the development of new technology to help diagnose the virus more quickly, the whole industry has a part to play to build a large British diagnostics industry at pace.

To make this easier, we have launched a new online portal on GOV.UK – please sign up today and play your part.

As a country, we are committed to defeating this invisible killer. And if we can bring to bear the ingenuity and innovation of the UK Life Sciences sector for which we are renowned across the world, then we can defeat coronavirus once and for all.


Professor John Newton is the Government’s adviser on testing

Source Article