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26th June 2020
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Global Collaboration Establishes Wales’ National Covid-19 Testing Laboratory

An advanced laboratory dedicated to leading Wales’ national Covid-19 testing has been established in Cardiff, thanks to collaboration between Public Health Wales and one of the world’s leading diagnostics companies.

Creating a national Covid-19 testing lab at the University Hospital of Wales is an important part of the Welsh Government’s Test, Trace, Protect strategy and has been made possible thanks to the support of multinational diagnostics company, PerkinElmer Inc., a global leader committed to innovating for a healthier world.

The onset of the global pandemic saw countries across the globe searching for vital testing resources to identify and combat the spread of Covid-19. Public Health Wales’ laboratory staff had been working to address issues with a restricted supply chain to find an alternative, reliable system to undertake a large volume of testing for Covid-19 infection in Wales.

PerkinElmer responded to an industry call to action issued by Life Sciences Hub Wales, with an offer to source testing kits and state-of-the-art lab equipment required to process them.

Working together, Life Sciences Hub Wales, Public Health Wales and the team at PerkinElmer identified Wales’ key resource needs and set about securing access to vital sources of advanced equipment and test materials needed for the lab in Cardiff.

Staff in the Wales Specialist Virology Centre, operated by Public Health Wales, rapidly evaluated an offer from PerkinElmer and verified the company’s ability to meet Public Health Wales’ requirements. Public Health Wales was also able to quickly navigate procurement and contractual arrangements so that the equipment could be used without delay.

With established bases in Wales and the UK, PerkinElmer was able to work quickly with its UK customers to requisition technology devices that could be rapidly repurposed for Covid-19 testing.

In addition to sourcing advanced extraction equipment, PerkinElmer has also provided Wales with a crucial supply of its proprietary Covid-19 specific testing kits that are in demand the world over.

As the organisation appointed by Welsh Government to be the primary point of contact for initial industry engagement with the NHS in Wales, Life Science Hub Wales was quick to identify PerkinElmer’s ability to support Wales’ Covid-19 testing strategy.

Cari-Anne Quinn, CEO, Life Sciences Hub Wales, said: “We have a thriving life sciences sector in Wales, which has been playing a key part in producing urgently needed products not only for Wales, but as part of the global response to the pandemic.

“Life Sciences Hub Wales works with health and social care services in Wales to understand the challenges they are facing. With our experience in the life sciences sector, we then work with companies and innovators across the country, the UK and globally to identify solutions.

“PerkinElmer understood the real need to think, operate and deliver innovatively to meet immediate needs. Their ability to locate and donate resources to address Wales’ urgent requirements must be applauded, as should their continued work with Public Health Wales to establish a lab in the country that is fully equipped to meet the country’s ongoing testing requirements.”

After arranging for equipment held by its existing UK customers to be transported to Wales, PerkinElmer then worked with Public Health Wales to create a supply chain that would allow Wales to further enhance its testing capabilities at the University Hospital of Wales.

“In this pandemic, governments are seeking guidance on best Covid-19 testing practices to resume normal business and economic activities, while ensuring the safety of their citizens,” said Masoud Toloue, Ph.D., Vice President & General Manager, Diagnostics, PerkinElmer. “Our collaboration with Public Health Wales ensures a stable supply chain of nucleic acid extraction and RT-PCR kits and the required equipment to provide the Welsh government with the best testing solution.”

PerkinElmer is a worldwide organisation that has been in Wales for over 50 years. The company’s local manufacturing site is based at Llantrisant Business Park and presently employs over 130 highly skilled employees at a 50,000 sq. ft facility.

David Heyburn, head of operations for microbiology and health protection at Public Health Wales, said: “It was clear from the offset the PerkinElmer team was driven by the need to help and was committed to working with us to support the development of Wales’ testing capabilities.

“PerkinElmer moved quickly to provide equipment it was able to source from within the UK that would enable work to begin while additional resources were being sourced from outside of the UK. This was offered unconditionally and exemplifies the underlying mood of many partners across Wales’ life science sector.

“This has led to an active collaboration in which NHS Wales has ordered testing platforms and reagents to test for Covid-19 infection.”

Scaling up testing capacity forms an important part of the Welsh Government’s Test, Trace, Protect strategy, and this includes increasing capacity to process more tests through Welsh laboratories.

Welsh Government Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates said: “The response of businesses across Wales to support our efforts in beating coronavirus has been truly remarkable.

“PerkinElmer is world renowned and its crucial role and expertise in setting up this advanced laboratory ensures it joins our first-class testing facilities here in Wales.

“I’d like to thank PerkinElmer and all partners involved for their commitment and effort in establishing this lab.

“I’d also like to thank Life Sciences Hub Wales for the crucial role they are playing in supporting such vital work.”