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New Megalab opens in Leamington Spa to Bolster Fight Against COVID-19

This press release was written and issued by Department of Health and Social Care

  • UK’s first megalab opens in Royal Leamington Spa - one of the centrepieces of UK’s future test and trace infrastructure
  • New lab boosts science industry and employments opportunities in the local area
  • As well as processing COVID-19 tests, lab will play a key role in responding to new variants of concern future disease threats

The UK’s first testing megalab - the Rosalind Franklin laboratory in Royal Leamington Spa has opened and will be processing hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 samples every day to rapidly detect new variants and help stop the spread of the virus, while bringing jobs to the local area.

Over the past year the government has built the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history, including public and private sector partners, at incredible speed.

The publicly owned very high throughput laboratory is the largest of its kind in the UK and uses cutting-edge technology, such as automation, and top of the range robotics.

The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory aims to create and upskill scientists with a programme of training and, with close links to universities, inspiring a new generation to choose a career in STEM. The new laboratory will create up to 1,500 jobs when fully staffed, with over 300 people on-boarded already and over 700 more joining in the near future. Around 60% of the staff hired so far coming from within 30 miles of the site.

The laboratory’s name honours Rosalind Franklin, whose legacy includes significant contributions towards our current understanding of RNA sequencing, which is now a major tool in our efforts to combat variants of concern.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“The UK Health Security Agency is going to put us at the forefront of the global battle against COVID-19 and help us stay a step ahead of new and emerging future threats.

“Trailblazing technologies are going to be pivotal to delivering on this bold ambition and I’m delighted that today we are bolstering our capabilities in testing and genomic sequencing with the opening of the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory.

“This Laboratory will be one of the centrepieces of our efforts to manage this virus in the future, processing hundreds of thousands of positive COVID-19 tests a day to help us stop cases becoming outbreaks.

“Testing has already been instrumental in helping us control the virus and it is going to be essential to continue to protect ourselves and our communities in the months ahead. I’d urge everyone to take up our offer of free, twice weekly rapid testing.”

Jobs have also been created in the wider manufacturing and supply chain – with up to 90 new local roles for key frontline positions when fully operational created via the Facilities Management contract, in roles such as waste management, cleaning, reception and technical services. All of this is with UK-based businesses, and two thirds are Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

This is in addition to appointing local caterers – including Café 2U (Jim & Layla) and Ayaz Mahmood The Coffee Express, alongside the wider business generated for hotels, restaurants, and shops in the area due to the increase in number of contractors and staff working to build and prepare the laboratory to open.

It aims to create and upskill scientists with a programme of training and, with close links to universities, inspiring a new generation to choose a career in STEM.

PhD research students in medical, life and data sciences from the University of Warwick and other universities in the region are about to begin placements as data scientists and bioscience leads at the laboratory. They will be joined by a number of undergraduate life science students in other supporting roles at the start of the new academic year in September.

The University of Warwick is providing facilities to assist with the recruitment and selection and training activities for new starters and university staff have also provided advice and assistance. The university is working closely with the laboratory to continue developing opportunities for collaboration, including research and professional training.

Professor Mike Shipman, Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Warwick, said:

“The University of Warwick was delighted to be asked to assist with this national initiative to help combat the pandemic. We quickly offered our full support, providing every assistance to help establish the crucial new laboratory in nearby Leamington Spa.

“The University of Warwick is not just geographically close to the laboratory. As one of the UK’s leading research led universities, we are able provide considerable world class science led support, advice and assistance. A significant number of our staff and research students with laboratory skills, and experience in the establishment and operation of laboratory spaces, are already working closely with the laboratory, and even more will soon join them.”

As a world-class laboratory it will also collaborate internationally, developing academic partnerships abroad and contributing to the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in science, medicine and technology.

The new laboratory is also working with Coventry University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences as part of their Applied Biomedical Sciences Degree programme, providing placements and training opportunities for students.

13 July 2021

Background information:

  • The laboratory is being built in a modular approach to allow testing capacity to increase whilst construction is continued with capacity scaling up over the coming months.
  • Technology being used on site includes LGC EndPoint PCR (EPCR) testing workflow for COVID-19, which has ultra-high capacity and can process up to 150,000 tests each day on a single instrument, allowing more tests to be processed more quickly and at a lower cost, and establishing a flexible pandemic response infrastructure that can respond to surges in demand.
  • The laboratory will also carry out genotype assay testing, using ePCR machines to rapidly detect COVID-19 mutations indicating whether positive test samples contain known variants, and genome sequencing to confirm known variants and identify any new mutations.
  • More than 200 million COVID-19 tests have been taken, including over 100 million PCR tests. This has meant over 4.8 million positive cases have been identified and a further 7.3million contacts contacted by NHS Test and Trace to tell them to self-isolate, since 28 May 2020.


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