Lighthouse Lab facility begins processing samples for COVID-19

Published: 24 April 2020

The Lighthouse Laboratory in Glasgow – a major new COVID-19 testing facility based in Scotland – is now operational.

The Lighthouse Lab, has officially started testing samples for COVID-19, is part of what will be the biggest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history, alongside other Lighthouse Lab sites in Milton Keynes and Alderley Park.

The newly operational lab will test samples from subjects with suspected COVID-19 infections, starting from the health and care workers and moving into the community testing. It is hoped the lab will move towards processing around 7,000 tests per day by the end of April and more thereafter.

The Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow is hosted by the University of Glasgow at their Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus, and opened in collaboration with the Scottish Government, and industry experts from BioAscent and the University of Dundee.

The Lighthouse Labs are being established across the UK to analyse samples taken from regional testing centres. Patient testing will be carried out at drive-through facilities before samples are assigned and delivered to the closest Lighthouse Lab with capacity. It is anticipated that the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow will process tests from across the UK, however as the number of tests undertaken in Scotland increases, the Glasgow Lab will work to service these in the first instance. In Scotland there are currently four regional testing centres in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Inverness.

The Lab is currently equipped with 20 protective cabinets sourced from the University of Glasgow, a fleet of fast high throughput ThermoFisher PCR machines and RNA extractors. Much of the equipment has been sourced from University of Glasgow labs, and moved to the new testing centre in order to make rapid COVID-19 response work possible. 

The Glasgow facility will be staffed on a 24/7 basis by around 100 staff members. More than 800 volunteers came forward to help with the facility, including highly experiences molecular scientists, technicians and bioinformaticians – all with the relevant skills and experience to carry out COVID-19 testing. The facility has been made possible through the work and commitment of partners, volunteers and University of Glasgow staff, including lab technicians, IT services and colleagues from the Professional Services across the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences in Glasgow..

The Lighthouse Lab is situated in the University of Glasgow’s Clinical Innovation Zone, a space that was designed to meet industrial scale standards and was therefore readily able to be transformed into a testing facility in response to the COVID-19 UK outbreak.

Dr Phil Jones, BioAscent’s Chief Scientific Officer, and Director of the testing facility, said: “BioAscent is extremely proud to be able to help in this critical work and provide on-site technical expertise needed to set up the testing facility. We’ve been able to contribute our know-how in vital disciplines including high-throughput screening, assay development and sample logistics, all of which are areas of specialism for the company.  We think the Lighthouse Labs represent a great example of collaboration between SMEs, like BioAscent, Universities and large companies with a shared common goal to quash COVID.”

Phil is joined by BioAscent's Director of Biosciences, Dr Stuart McElroy, who is working as Head Scientist at the Glasgow facility.

The story received extensive media coverage, including coverage on the BBC.

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