University offers use of labs and sends COVID-19 testing equipment to help NHS response

Bioscientists from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are pulling out all the stops to help the NHS fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences team responded immediately to an urgent Government call for a loan of their ThermoFisher 7500-Fast PCR machine, designed to accurately detect the presence of coronavirus genetic material in patient samples. This was collected by Army personnel for use in the new COVID-19 Lighthouse testing facility based in Glasgow.

The team has also delivered an automated Qiacube robot, which is capable of testing hundreds of samples a day, to NHS Dumfries and Galloway. GCU Virologist Dr Claire Crossan travelled to Dumfries to train and support staff in the use of the machine.

GCU has offered the Scottish Government use of its state-of-the-art Bioscience laboratories and a micro-containment suite for safe and secure COVID-19 testing. PPE from the labs including gloves, disposable aprons, hair nets, unopened safety glasses and ethanol for deep cleaning have been sent to NHS hospitals and social care providers.

Academic staff and PhD students in the department, as well as final-year Biomedical Science students have stepped up to offer expert laboratory support to the government.

Dr Sharron Dolan,Head of Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, said: “GCU is delighted to contribute equipment and resources to the new Lighthouse COVID-19 testing laboratory in Glasgow, and other NHS facilities, to help speed up testing and fight coronavirus in Scotland.

“With the focus moving toward testing and tracing, the government is aiming to significantly expand its laboratory capacity and staffing. As the testing programme ramps up, staff and students in Biological and Biomedical Sciences have stepped up to offer expert laboratory support.

“We have also been working closely with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to get our students ready to join the NHS workforce in hospital labs to help with testing. I am proud of the overwhelming commitment of all our final-year Biomedical Science students to join laboratories in the frontline of the NHS to tackle the COVID-19 virus.

“The response from staff and students to a Government call to help with the urgent need for more COVID-19 testing has been inspirational and a credit to GCU and the future of this country.”

Leading researcher Professor Linda Scobie said we were delighted that GCU has been able to contribute to the emergency response.

She added: “We have all pulled together to provide support at this difficult time but to be able to make a contribution of equipment and reagents to support the testing by the NHS makes us feel that we are indeed engaging in the common good.

“Dr Claire Crossan’s instant response to provide support and training the NHS staff to utilise the equipment meant the rapid implementation of the Qiacube robot in situ. NHS Dumfries and Galloway have confirmed that testing is up and running and the equipment is performing brilliantly.”

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