Government COVID-19 testing lab to open at the University of Birmingham

Gloved hands holding a swab
The addition of the lab will make Birmingham the first university campus in the UK with end to end pillar two testing capabilities

As part of the drive to expand COVID-19 testing capacity across the UK, the University of Birmingham has been announced as one of the first academic sector lab partnerships to come online. The lab, based in the Universitys’s Medical School, will form part of NHS Test and Trace, joining Britain’s largest network of diagnostic testing facilities increasing coronavirus testing capacity.

The new facilities will help to increase sample processing capacity, with the number of tests that can be processed gradually increasing over the coming months. The Birmingham lab will be the first of the new facilities to open, delivering over 3,000 tests per day over the coming months.  

Set up by a multi-disciplinary team from the Institutes of Immunology and Immunotherapy & Microbiology and Infection, the lab will be headed up by infectious disease expert Professor Alan McNally, who will manage a team of over 40 lab staff, many of whom have been recruited to support the facility. Professor McNally has already played a significant role in the fight against COVID-19 having been seconded into the role of Infectious Disease Lead at the government’s first flagship Lighthouse Lab in Milton Keynes.

Professor McNally said: “I’m thrilled to be involved with this next phase of the government’s national testing programme. What has been achieved in establishing this lab in such a short space of time is testament to the dedication of the team at the University who have worked tirelessly to ensure we are in a position to begin processing samples as soon as next week.”

Professor Alex Richter from the University’s Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, who has played an integral role in setting up the lab from logistics to the recruitment and training of lab staff, said: “This has been a huge team effort, drawing on all our resources, retraining staff from the University of Birmingham’s Clinical Immunology Service, Estates, Finance, Human resources and IT departments and collaborating with University Hospitals Birmingham virologists.”

Professor David Adams, Head of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, said: “From ground breaking research to the selflessness of our staff and students who mobilised to support our local community and the NHS, the University has made important contributions to both the national and the global COVID effort. The opening of this new lab is only possible because we have specialist facilities and particularly highly skilled and dedicated staff who want to contribute to the wider national response to COVID-19.”

The lab will work in parallel to the recently launched on-campus community testing site located at the Southgate entrance, which opened in early September. The testing site is open to staff, students and the local community and offers testing for anyone with coronavirus symptoms. The addition of the lab will make Birmingham the first university campus in the UK with end to end pillar two testing capabilities.

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