The UK’s first Covid-19 testing mega-lab has opened in Leamington six months later than was first expected.
The Rosalind Franklin laboratory, at the former Wolsley buildings off Tachbrook Road/Queensway, will be processing hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 samples every day to quickly detect new variants and help stop the spread of the virus.
It is expected create up to 1,500 jobs for the area when fully staffed with 300 having started work at the site when it opened yesterday (Monday July 12) and 700 more expected to join in the near future.
As well as processing Covid-19 tests, the lab will play a key role in responding to new variants of 'future disease threats'.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The UK Health Security Agency is going to put us at the forefront of the global battle against COVID-19 and help us stay a step ahead of new and emerging future threats.
“Trailblazing technologies are going to be pivotal to delivering on this bold ambition and I’m delighted that today we are bolstering our capabilities in testing and genomic sequencing with the opening of the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory.
“This Laboratory will be one of the centrepieces of our efforts to manage this virus in the future, processing hundreds of thousands of positive COVID-19 tests a day to help us stop cases becoming outbreaks.
“Testing has already been instrumental in helping us control the virus and it is going to be essential to continue to protect ourselves and our communities in the months ahead. I’d urge everyone to take up our offer of free, twice weekly rapid testing.”
The laboratory has not been without controversy.
It was initially supposed to open in January and an employee, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that they and fellow staff had been "left in limbo" in the months that followed.The employee, and others including Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western, also expressed concern and raised questions about who will be running the huge site – the NHS or private companies.
The employee said: "Not only does it look like I’ll not start work until the autumn, but despite signing up to work for the NHS’s Test & Trace scheme in a difficult but rewarding role in these unique times I won’t even be rewarded with an NHS pension or perks like the Blue Light scheme if I even start work at all."
Rosalind Franklin, whom the laboratory is named after, was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA , RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal, and graphite.