A new laboratory to perform 30,000 coronavirus tests per day is to be set up at the University of Cambridge.
The British government has set a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month to help cope with the pandemic.
The new facility is expected to start with 1,000 to 2,000 daily tests by mid-April and aim to “gradually increase” to 30,000 tests in the first week of May.
Health Minister Edward Argar told the BBC that the laboratory “would make a significant contribution” to the tests.
The facility will be based at the university’s Anne McLaren laboratory on Cambridge’s biomedical campus, in collaboration with pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.
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In a joint statement, the organizations said the facility would be used for “high-throughput screening for Covid-19 tests and to explore the use of alternative chemical reagents for test kits to help overcome the current shortages ”.
Pascal Soriot, managing director of AstraZeneca, told BBC Radio Four’s Today program that the company typically performs polymerase chain reaction tests “very regularly”.
“The challenge here is to scale it up and run 30,000 tests a day,” he said.
The number of people who died with a coronavirus in the UK is 6,159, of whom 55,242 have tested positive.
In its most recent figures, the Ministry of Health and Welfare indicated that 14,006 tests had been carried out on Monday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised 100,000 tests a day as part of a strategy to increase testing across the country.
Argar said that although the new facility will not reach its maximum capacity by the end of this month, it “would make a significant contribution to the overall total of 100,000 tests per day.”
He said the secretary of health was “determined to achieve this goal,” adding “that he knows how important it is, he is committed to it, as is the whole government.”
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