A new Covid-19 Lighthouse Laboratory has opened in Plymouth - converting a former engineering warehouse into a high-tech lab.
The Lighthouse Laboratory Plymouth is a purpose-fitted 6,000m2 facility on Plymbridge Road, which is operated by University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust in partnership with NHS Test and Trace.
Plymouth was chosen as a prime location by the Department of Health and Social Care, following a successful site visit led by the Plymouth Health Innovation Alliance, a cross-sector partnership which includes the likes of the Trust, the University of Plymouth and Plymouth City Council.
The Plymouth site joins a national network of testing labs and is performing PCR tests (polymerase chain reaction) on Covid-19 swabs from across the UK.
When asked about the significance of the facility, Director of Planning and Site Services & Deputy Chief Executive, Nick Thomas said: “Testing remains a vital part of our national response to Covid-19 and our staff will be at the forefront of those efforts. As a city-wide partnership, we identified early on that Plymouth possessed the specialist skills and expertise to host a high-throughput laboratory.
“Bringing this facility to the city is a real achievement, as in the longer term it will leave a legacy as we look to realise our molecular ambitions when it becomes part of the UHP estate, opening up numerous possibilities as a shared asset across the city’s scientific community and the wider peninsula.”
Readying a site for such a highly-specialised purpose is a considerable task, which involved countless tradespeople. Future Hospital Director, Stuart Windsor explains: “A project of this scale is not without its logistical challenges, however to convert from an engineering warehouse to a fully functioning lab is an incredible achievement. This has been achieved by the hard work of our teams, contractors and strong partnership working across the city.”
Many of the new technical roles created by the Lighthouse Laboratory will be filled by recent graduates from the University of Plymouth. Director of the Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research at the university, Professor Sheena Asthana said: “The University of Plymouth is the largest provider of healthcare courses in the South West so I’m delighted that some of our graduates will be technicians in the new facility. The testing is so important and it’s great that the city has come together now, as it has throughout the pandemic, to play its part.”
Plymouth City Council Leader, Tudor Evans OBE has also offered his support for the opening, saying: “This is a superb example of Plymouth’s public and private sectors working together for the greater good. The Lighthouse Laboratory is part of the biggest diagnostic lab network in British history.
“Our Resurgam recovery programme meant we were able to respond quickly to this opportunity and it will regenerate hundreds of jobs as well as play a key part in the country’s ongoing battle against COVID-19. This is a fantastic result for Plymouth.”
Chief Executive of Plymouth Science Park and part of the PHIA Steering Group, Ian McFadzen said: “We are delighted, the health innovation ecosystem in Plymouth is vibrant; covering all aspects of clinical and research excellence as well as enjoying the necessary infrastructure to translate research into commercially scalable businesses.”