Specialist scientific equipment has been provided by Teesside University to help with the Government’s plans to scale-up testing for coronavirus (COVID-19).
In a bid to help tackle the outbreak, the Government is aiming to increase testing, with a target of reaching 25,000 tests a day within the next four weeks.
Tens of thousands of pounds of specialist kit and equipment has been supplied to North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust by the University to help them scale up testing for COVID-19.
This includes a specialist QIAcube Connect Platform from QIAGEN and RNeasy extraction kits which rapidly speed up the testing process.
The equipment will be used to automate extraction of COVID-19 viral RNA from several clinical specimens, which will be instrumental in helping to scale up to the expected demand for COVID-19 testing.
The specialist equipment was provided by the University’s National Horizons Centre, (NHC), a £22m research, teaching and training facility which is a centre of excellence for the bioscience industry.
Members of the North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust visited the NHC to analyse the equipment available and were delighted to be able to make use of the QIAGEN QIAcube Connect Platform and RNeasy extraction kits for as long as necessary.
In addition, the University has offered lab and bench space, as well as specialists scientists within the NHC to help run the tests. They have also offered the Trust other consumables which are in short supply, such as gloves and pipettes, as well as specialist PCR machines to run the current tests, and the Illumina MiSeq System for high-throughput sequencing of the virus.
Professor Vikki Rand, Head of Biosciences Research in Teesside University’s School of Health & Life Sciences and the NHC, said: ‘The coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak is a global health emergency which is placing a considerable amount of strain on our fantastic NHS.
‘We have access to high-tech, specialist equipment, as well as world-renowned expertise within the National Horizons Centre and we are happy to be able to lend our support in this way.
‘It may only make a small difference but anything that can help to speed up the process and help more people to be tested for this virus is a positive measure.’
In addition to the specialist equipment, Teesside University currently has a significant number of student placements providing a vital additional resource to the health profession.
Professor Tim Thompson, Associate Dean (Academic), in Teesside University’s School of Health & Life Sciences, added: ‘These are extremely challenging times and our healthcare students are a credit to themselves and the University.
‘They continue to carry out vital work in the most difficult circumstances and they should all be very proud of the difference they are making to peoples’ lives.’