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Our research staff volunteer at ‘mega labs’ for COVID-19 testing

We are proud to report that RESEARCHERS at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH), who have been funded through their studies here at the hospital by the Orthopaedic Institute Ltd, have volunteered to join a team of highly-qualified experts driving the UK’s effort to increase COVID-19 testing at one of the three new ‘mega-labs’.

Dr Jade Perry and Dr John Garcia, Keele University Researchers based at RJAH, and final year Keele PhD student Mairead Hyland, also based at RJAH, have volunteered to help at the Alderley Park laboratory in Cheshire.

Last month the government opened three Lighthouse ‘mega-labs’ across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cheshire-based unit, hosted by the Medicines Discovery Catapult, tests thousands of samples for COVID-19 infection.

Dr Perry has volunteered, and says it is a privilege to be able to do her bit in the fight against the virus.

She said: “When we received the initial contact from the National Testing Programme, I immediately volunteered my services.

“In these unprecedented times, any opportunity to contribute to the safety of the public and the betterment of society is a privilege and something that I am delighted to be a part of.

Following the intensive training programme, I am now helping to train new volunteers.

It’s difficult to articulate quite how welcoming and personable the incredible team at the Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab are, and I have an immense sense of pride that I am part of their tireless efforts to combat this pandemic.”

In the UK, tests are conducted by taking a swab of the nose and throat which are then sent to a lab where skilled volunteers from across the scientific community spot signs of the virus’ genetic material.

The three volunteers all have a background in science with the expertise and experience needed for their new roles and have completed their training to work in the new labs.

Dr Garcia, a post-doctoral researcher in regenerative medicine, said helping has been made easier by the welcoming nature of staff there.

He said: “This has been a tremendous experience for me. When the call was sent for scientists to help in the COVID-19 testing centres, I did not hesitate to offer my skills.

My job in the testing lab is to work in a special biosafety cabinet to carefully transfer the potentially infected samples to a unique device in preparation for PCR, a machine which amplifies viral genetic material.

This is a very meticulous process; concentrating for lengthy periods of time while doing very precise movements.

I have been particularly impressed at how calm, friendly and helpful everyone is, especially towards the trainees. I feel humbled and proud to be helping the fight against this pandemic.”

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