Pakistan, UK partner up to create highly advanced ‘robotic’ COVID-19 testing lab

Future Trust, from Pakistan and Opencell UK have collaborated to create a 'robot' lab to increase the testing capability of COVID-19 in Pakistan

robot lab

Future Trust made significant headway in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. In order to increase domestic testing capacity for Covid-19 diagnosis, Future Trust in partnership with technology from Opencell UK launched Future Labs yesterday. Creating a robotic lab that will mitigate the time needed to test for the coronavirus.

Future Trust is a not-for-profit organization by JS bank for the improvement of socio-economic conditions in Pakistan. It addresses poverty and other social issues in Pakistan.

The highly advanced robotic mobile Covid-19 laboratory has been built in the United Kingdom by Opencell UK, the laboratory is a Biosafety Level 2 plus (BSL-2+) facility built to ISO 15189 standards.

Robotic Lab to help COVID-19 testing significantly

Biosafety levels (BSL) are used to identify the protective measures needed in a laboratory setting to protect workers, the environment, and the public. The levels are defined in Biosafety in Biomedical Laboratories (the BMBL). Biosafety level designations in the BMBL outline specific practices and safety and facility requirements. There are many ways to combine equipment, practices, and laboratory design features to achieve appropriate biosafety and biocontainment. These are determined through biological risk assessments specifically conducted for each experimental protocol.

Activities and projects conducted in biological laboratories are categorized by biosafety level. The four biosafety levels are BSL-1, BSL-2, BSL-3, and BSL-4, with BSL-4 being the highest (maximum) level of containment. There are additional specific rules and designations for animal research (ABSL), agricultural research (BSL-Ag), and other types of research. These other types of labs require their own specific set of rules and regulations because they are dealing with larger organisms, such as plants, animals, and insects.

The state-of-art lab is expected to meet the requirements for the highly significant Covid-19 RT-qPCR testing. The lab can process over 2000 tests per day, and due to six liquid-handling robots present at service in the lab, only 6 staff members are required to run all the shifts.

According to Daniel H. Farkas, Carol A. Holland, in Cell and Tissue-Based Molecular Pathology, 2009; RT-qPCR or Reverse Transcription–Polymerase Chain Reaction, is RNA based test used for the coronavirus.

This test is important for coronavirus testing and curbing as ‘Radiology’ reported in its study,” Correlation of Chest CT and RT-PCR Testing for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in China”; In the absence of specific therapeutic drugs or vaccines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it is essential to detect the disease at an early stage and immediately isolate the infected person from the healthy population.

Tests necessary for curbing coronavirus

According to the latest guideline of Diagnosis and Treatment of Pneumonitis Caused by 2019-nCoV (trial sixth version) published by the Chinese government, the diagnosis of COVID-19 must be confirmed by means of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or gene sequencing for respiratory or blood specimens, as the key indicator for hospitalization.

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Hence the new robotic lab may help in detecting and controlling the virus in any ‘wave’s’ early stages, as Pakistan may be looking towards a second wave of the pandemic. The number of cases is on the rise again with 1708 new cases reported yesterday.

Speaking at the event the High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner christened the project as a success for both the UK and Pakistan because the project “is a vibrant example of a UK-Pakistan relationship built on people, that I am privileged to serve in the middle of”. He noted also that the, “UK is proud of having been in the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 in its efforts to pursue a vaccine and its distribution internationally, as well as for providing development assistance to a broad spectrum of Covid relief, through UK Aid, to Pakistan”

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Ali Jehangir Siddiqui, Ambassador-at-Large for Foreign Investments, said “I would like to thank His Excellency Dr. Christian Turner for joining us and supporting this project. This partnership between entities in the UK and Pakistan is of importance to us not just because the two countries are so close but also because this represents a partnership in life sciences which is the need for the world at this moment in time.  Recognizing the UKs excellence and leadership in life sciences, we look forward to more such partnerships in the near future.”

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Dr. Azeem Butt, the Head of Molecular Biology for Future Labs described the initiative as, “heartening to see corporate organizations such as JS Bank and Future Trust working on innovation in science to fight Covid-19.”

GVS News Desk


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