Scotland’s role in the Covid-19 diagnostic testing response

Science is at the forefront of finding solutions to the Covid-19 global pandemic. The contribution of Scotland's life sciences community to Covid-19 testing research and supply is another great example of how the thriving sector here can support international efforts.

Supply chain 

The availability of accurate, specific and rapid tests for Covid-19 is critical in the management of this global pandemic.  Covid-19 diagnostic testing methods adopted over the past six months are mainly based on detection of the presence of viral genetic material (molecular assays) from a throat/nose swab.

However, there has also been much effort from the diagnostic industry to develop immunological-based assays to identify the presence of specific viral proteins (antigens) or antibodies against the virus.

The testing process involves complex supply chains that can include sample collection, sample transport, virus extraction, testing and rapid reporting of results. The global demand for testing has impacted on the supply of key equipment/reagents required for testing.

Covid testing centre at Emirates, Glasgow

Global solutions developed in Scotland

Once again, companies in Scotland have risen to these challenges, responding to both an urgent Scottish Government call to support its testing programme, and developing innovative testing methods for customers globally.

1. Hutchison Technologies

Dundee-based Hutchison Technologies, with its ISO 13485 medical quality assured team of employees in China, worked with its network of accredited and approved manufacturers to supply Virus Collection & Transportation Medium Kits for NHS Scotland.

The Hutchison Technologies team in China audited the factories, inspected the goods prior to shipping and managed the logistics operation. This played a major role in addressing urgent shortages within NHS Scotland.

Read more on Hutchison Technologies website

2. E&O Laboratories

E&O laboratories moved quickly to produce a type of Viral Transport Medium (VPSS Solution) that makes the analysis of Covid-19 test samples safer and more straightforward. 

The company used a formulation already used by NHS Scotland laboratories, re-engineering its machines for automation and retraining its staff. This led to the company contracting with NHS Scotland to provide these reagents for Covid-19 sample transport.

Virginia Lucey, Managing Director of E&O said: "Our research and development team worked tirelessly with NHS virology experts to design formulations that will aid reliable testing of Covid-19."

Read more on Life Sciences Scotland website

3. Thermo Fisher Scientific

Thermo Fisher Scientific, with two sites in Scotland, is a key partner in the UK Government network of Lighthouse Laboratories, including the laboratory at the University of Glasgow, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus.

The company is also investing in its capability to support Covid-19 testing globally, including adding capacity and increasing efficiencies at its facility in Perth. This will allow the company to scale production at the site to more than eight million filled specialised sample collection tubes a week.

Read the full article

4. LumiraDx

UK-based LumiraDx, with primary R&D and manufacturing operations in Scotland, has developed a test that uses the LumiraDx Instrument to detect Covid-19 antigen protein from a nasal swab in under 12 minutes.

The company has agreed a £6.76 million deal with NHS Scotland to supply rapid testing machines and tests.

In August 2020, the company also received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the LumiraDx SARS-CoV-2 antigen test.

Read more about LumiraDx's operations in Scotland

5. Omega Diagnostics

Scottish biotech firm, Omega Diagnostics has won a major UK Government contract to supply rapid Covid-19 testing kits, which is expected to create around 200 local jobs.

The deal will enable Alva-based Omega Diagnostics - along with an English firm - to produce up to 200 million lateral flow antigen tests. They are designed to detect positive cases in less than 30 minutes.

Colin King, CEO of Omega Diagnostics Group plc said: "Rapid lateral flow tests are an essential tool for identifying Covid-19 cases where people have no visible symptoms but could still be infectious and continue to spread the virus. We are very proud to be playing our part in the nation’s effort to control the spread of coronavirus by using our production facilities in Scotland." 

In April 2020 Omega diagnostics signed a 'Memo of Understanding' with three other UK companies, in conjunction with the University of Oxford, to form the UK Rapid Test Consortium.

The consortium is working to develop and manufacture a Covid-19 point-of-care antibody test.

Omega Diagnostics has also been providing manufacturing capability for Mologic's Covid-19 ELISA diagnostics test. In September 2020, the company announced that it had CE-marked Mologic's lateral flow antibody test for Covid-19 for sale under Omega Diagnostics VISITECT® brand.

Read more on Omega Diagnostics website

6. Quotient

Swiss company Quotient’s research and manufacturing site at Edinburgh has developed a Covid antibody test (MosaiQ Covid-19 Antibody Microarray) which is designed to detect IgG and IgM antibodies against at SARS-CoV-2.

The MosaiQ Covid-19 Antibody Microarray is CE marked and available for distribution in Europe, including Switzerland and the UK.

Read the full news release

7. Elasmogen

Aberdeen-based Elasmogen is collaborating with the University of Aberdeen on a Scottish Government research award of almost £1 million to tackle Covid-19.

Elasmogen is using its soloMER drug discovery platform to accelerate the development of new point-of-care diagnostics. SoloMERs have advantages over classical antibodies and the company has identified a panel of a new class of binders to the spike protein.

Read more on Elasmogen

Find partners and suppliers

With more than 150 specialist supply chain companies, employing more than 6000 skilled people, Scotland is well-placed to provide innovative and expert solutions to pharma/biotech companies globally. 

From diagnostics to therapeutics, the Scottish Life and Chemical Sciences Directory is your gateway to over 1000 companies and organisations in Scotland.

Diganostic testing - Image by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

Whether you’re looking for suppliers or want to chat about a potential project, we’re here to help.

You might also be interested in

Drug discovery and clinical trials

How the life sciences community in Scotland is mobilising and responding to the challenges arising from the Covid-19 environment.

Thermo Fisher expansion plans

Thermo Fisher Scientific is expanding its manufacturing capacity in Perth, Scotland to meet future global demands for Covid-19 testing and sample collection, creating 200 new jobs.

Scotland's life sciences clusters

With more than 770 life sciences organisations employing more than 41,000 people, Scotland is one of the largest life sciences clusters in Europe.