EACR President Elect Caroline Dive writes about her institute’s work towards the United Kingdom’s efforts with testing for SARS-CoV-2.
As COVID-19 disease in the UK escalated, and the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute (CRUK MI) along with the rest of the University of Manchester shut its doors, the CRUK MI senior management immediately started to think how to best support the urgent national need to expand SARS-CoV-2 testing.
We are proud of our volunteers and our part in this magnificent effort
We first planned to establish a testing facility within CRUK MI, but when the government announced that a national testing hub would be developed at the Alderley Park site, our home base, it was clear that this initiative should be where we would focus our efforts and support. Many of our research staff, whose laboratory skills are especially well suited for the task of SARS-CoV-2 testing in a regulated laboratory environment, were keen to volunteer. Our Institute’s director, Professor Richard Marais and I contacted Prof. Peter Simpson, CSO at Medicines Discovery Catapult, and Director of the Alderley Park Lighthouse Laboratory, to offer our support.
There are challenges ahead but I am optimistic that we can meet these together here in the North West of the UK
We developed a working partnership between CRUK MI and the Lighthouse Laboratory and our staff were amongst the first to undergo training and to get started testing samples from front-line NHS workers, whose negative results allow them to return to patient care. Dr Dominic Rothwell, lead of the nucleic acids biomarker team in the CRUK MI Cancer Biomarker Centre, supervises lab staff within the Lighthouse Laboratory. He has been impressed with the speed at which testing sample numbers has increased in a period of just a few weeks. CRUK MI has also loaned key equipment to the Lighthouse Laboratory that will underpin the rapid further expansion of testing capacity. We are proud of our volunteers and our part in this magnificent effort.
For my part, I have joined the Leadership Team of the Lighthouse Laboratory, working with a small group of talented individuals from the diagnostic and pharma industries and from academia, who are busy developing the strategy for future proofing the Alderley Park laboratory to ensure testing capacity meets ongoing demand. Certainly, there are challenges ahead but I am optimistic that we can meet these together here in the North West of the UK where biomedical companies, the University of Manchester and Universities across the region are pulling together in the fight against COVID-19.
Supporting this fight continues to be important work for CRUK MI, although we are all looking forward to getting back to our ‘day jobs’ fighting our familiar foe and getting our cancer research back up and running as soon as we can safely do so.
Professor Caroline Dive, CBE, FMedSci., Director CRUK MI Cancer Biomarker Centre
European Association for Cancer Research, President Elect.
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