The milestone comes as the UK Government approves the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine for use (30/12)FERNANDO ZHIMINAICELA / PIXABAY

The University’s coronavirus testing facility has passed a significant milestone of more than two million tests processed in the first eight months of its operation.

The Cambridge COVID-19 Testing Centre is the result of a collaboration between the University and two major pharmaceutical partners, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The testing centre was brought under the Government’s national diagnostic lab network soon after its launch during efforts to bolster the UK’s testing capacity earlier this year.

The University teamed up with the two pharmaceutical partners to combine their drug discovery and technology research expertise with the University’s leading interdisciplinary research to establish the new testing centre at the rapidly-repurposed Anne McLaren Building on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

The facility was repurposed in five weeks, whereas such a process would normally take six months.

Hundreds of volunteers from the three organisations were recruited and trained to ensure the Centre could operate.

Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge said: "This is a tremendous achievement and testament to the hard work of the team involved in setting up and running this facility."

"I would like to thank everyone who has played a part in making the Centre a huge success and enabling it to play an important role in helping keep Cambridgeshire and the UK safe."

The centre has also seen its fair share of innovation, acting as the site of development for a new Covid-19 test, designed by a team from Primerdesign, which has decreased the turnaround time of the testing process. 

In addition, the Centre also uses robots which play a significant role in RNA extraction and the sample handling preparation process: there were 13 such robots in the UK before the Cambridge Testing Centre was established, whereas the Centre is now home to 14 robots alone.


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Sir Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President at BioPharmaceuticals R&D, said in a University press release: "We are delighted to have been able to set up both an unprecedented partnership and a state-of-the-art testing facility at speed with robotic and automation innovation at its heart."  

Meanwhile for students in both college and private accommodation, the asymptomatic pooled screening programme is set to restart on 18th January.

Asymptomatic testing has been unavailable since the beginning of the Christmas vacation, although the symptomatic testing programme has operated for staff and students throughout December, and will continue to operate throughout Lent Term.

Additional tests are also planned from 11th January for students who may have already returned.

The announcement of Cambridge COVID-19 Testing Centre’s milestone achievement also comes as the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine was approved for use in the UK today (30/12) after it met required safety, quality and effectiveness standards.