HSL has been at the front and centre of the UK’s response to the Covid pandemic. Faced with greatly increased numbers of tests – plus a global shortage of reagents and enforced staff working practices, our ever-resourceful teams have been even more inventive. Pathway spoke to Dr Paul Grant, Scientific Lead for Molecular Virology, who explains how he and the molecular team designed a new test that would vastly increase capacity without having to rely on reagents.
“As soon as the first sequence of the virus was released from China in January, we started to develop primers and probes for a diagnostic assay. We worked in parallel with Public Health England’s reference laboratories until the test was ready to go live.
“At the start, the biggest issue we faced was a shortage of reagents to extract the viral RNA from samples. To mitigate this, we diversified our assays, so that we had a range of molecular tests that could be used on the swab samples. At the same time, wemanaged to achieve a higher throughput, lower risk of reagent shortage and faster turnaround.
All five assays, now running in the main laboratory and at our hospital sites for point of care, have passed External Quality Assurance schemes and have been approved for UKAS iso15189 accreditation in just a few months.
It has been a huge team effort, with colleagues working very long hours, many voluntarily, to ensure we processed the vastly increased volume of tests. But we all know that behind every test is a patient in hospital.
We’ve learned a lot about the virus – although we still don’t know everything about it. But there’s enormous pride to have been part of the story.”
Paul’s story is typical of the way everyone in the group has gone more than the extra mile during this extraordinary time