School of Science, Engineering & Environment 30.09.20

University of Salford colleagues testing for Covid-19 at Alderley Park Lighhouse Lab

Laboratory technicians from The University of Salford have volunteered to work on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19.

Six volunteers from the University of Salford have joined a leading group of scientists who are testing thousands of patient samples each day for coronavirus at the new Lighthouse Lab at Alderley Park in Cheshire, led by Medicines Discovery Catapult.

The Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab is one of three mega labs across the UK where staff are being recruited, trained up and tasked with dramatically increasing the number of coronavirus tests that can take place each day to support the national effort against the pandemic.

Tony Bodell, Manisha Patel, Amy Evans (nee Hall), Marian Denson, Andrew Martin and lab apprentice Harrison Barnett have all successfully been appointed as volunteers to work amongst other scientists and expert technicians using their invaluable experience and excellent operational skills to contribute to this huge team effort. 

The Salford volunteers are based at workstation one (one of five) and are involved with the preparation of incoming patient samples potentially carrying the live virus, formatting them for the PCR assay. Each day they are kitted out with all the essential PPE they require to do so safely, and this work is carried out in a class II biological safety cabinet.  

Tony Bodell describes the typical work they carry out each day: "Careful unpacking of patient samples, transfer of samples into bar-code labelled tubes and onward processing into 96 deep well plates (DWP). This processing can take between 1.5-3 hours for one individual to generate a single DWP depending on the quality of the samples. Health and safety of workers is addressed as a priority at all times and waste management is extremely rigorous, following an agreed risk assessment protocol." 

Andrew Martin commented: “It is great to be out of my flat and knowing that I am doing my little bit to help the fight against Covid-19. Thanks to our staff for being part of this testing team and showing how a unified response can deliver great achievements." 

Prof. Peter Simpson, Chief Scientific Officer, Medicines Discovery Catapult and Head of Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab, said: “The Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab has been set up at an unprecedented pace and scale to respond to an urgent national need.

“This would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of all the scientists from universities, research charities, and industry, who have stepped forward to collaborate and utilise their skills in the fight against COVID-19. The scientists from the University of Salford are a great addition to the team, and we can’t thank them enough for their continued commitment.”

Manisha Patel, Specialist Teaching Technician in Biomedical Sciences and Physiology, shares her experiences of working at Alderley Park in a full interview that can be viewed on the UK Lighthouse Labs Network website.

Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab is part of the biggest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history, testing coronavirus samples from drive-through test sites across the country. Similar ‘mega labs’ have been set up in Glasgow and Milton Keynes.

To find out more about the UK Lighthouse Labs Network visit UK Lighthouse Labs Network.