Nottingham Universities unite to enable safe COVID-19 testing

Universities in Nottingham are helping to protect scientists testing for COVID-19, by providing the Government with essential safety cabinets.

The Category 2 Cell Culture Cabinets will provide a highly controlled environment to protect skilled scientists, who are also needed to carry out tests for COVID-19, in a safe way.

The 28 cabinets were collected by the British Armed Forces from the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. The size of the units meant it took five 7.5 tonne trucks to move them all.

This latest requisition comes after the universities joined forces to provide £1m worth of Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, equipment to the Government last week.

This was the largest shipment of PCR machines from any university in the country, allowing the number of tests for the presence of COVID-19 to be increased by 20,000 a day.

The Category 2 Cell Culture Cabinets, 16 of which have come from the Biodiscovery Institute at the University of Nottingham and 12 from Nottingham Trent University, look like big hooded cabinets. They have open fronts and a vertical air flow, so outside air is run through a filter before it gets inside. There is also a filter to clean air from inside before it goes outside the cabinet.

Used in microbiology labs, pharmaceutical labs, and cancer research labs the equipment protects the bacteria, viruses, and carcinogens being manipulated inside the cabinet while shielding them from outside contamination.

Loading up the cabinets

They have had to undergo a rigorous cleaning process, made possible by teams of technicians and clinical staff, before being made available to help with the national fight against the virus.

Professor Chris Denning, Director of the BioDiscovery Institute at the University of Nottingham, said: “Right now our researchers and physicians are on the front line in the effort to understand COVID-19 and to treat the patients who have become ill with it. We are also helping the local and national efforts to test who is infected with COVID-19.

“Following on from the PCR machines, these cabinets are essential to the testing efforts because they create a highly controlled environment that keep our scientists safe whilst carrying out the testing.

“The equipment we have provided so far will maximise testing to tens of thousands a day. However, the Government needs to get more testing kits. If they achieve that, the only missing bit will be people and we have plenty of volunteers too, if called upon.”

The British armed Forces

Both universities said they were committed to supporting communities, local partners and the nation in many different ways.

Professor Nigel Wright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, at Nottingham Trent University, said: “We are glad to be able assist the national response to COVID-19 through the provision of further equipment following the Prime Minister’s call for assistance.

“This builds on our recent commitment to supply machines used by our researchers which can enable more tests for coronavirus and we are again working with our friends at the University of Nottingham in order to provide this important support.”

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