ONE million Covid-19 tests have been processed at the UK’S first Covid testing ‘megalab’ in Leamington.
The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory on Tachbrook Park, owned and operated by the Department of Health and Social Care, opened in June as part of the NHS Test and Trace network.
The lab uses cutting-edge testing technology, including robotics, and is at the heart of the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) plans for managing coronavirus, which includes detecting for mutations of the virus which can produce new variants.
Chief executive of the UKHSA Jenny Harries said: “This milestone is a real testament to the hard work, dedication and collaboration between teams across the public sector, academia and industry.
“While the phenomenal vaccine rollout has helped to build a wall of defence across the country, testing and isolating when needed remains vital to controlling the spread of the virus and protecting one another.
“The laboratory is using a robust programme of training to create and upskill scientists and is working closely with local universities to inspire students to choose a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”
But the laboratory, which currently employs 600 staff, has not been without its critics.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western, along with campaign group South Warwickshire Keep our NHS Public, have both raised concerns at what they saw as a level of ‘secrecy’ by the Department of Health and Social Care around the project following delays to its opening.
They also claim former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was ‘evasive’ when questioned by Mr Western over costs.
The Juno Drive lab was officially opened in August by current Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
The government’s other planned mega-laboratory, which was set to open in Scotland, was scrapped due to a ‘lack of demand.’