A sequencing laboratory for COVID mutant monitoring has been temporarily installed on the Gateway East site at White City Place to help in the fight against the pandemic. This is located alongside a larger installation also today of rapid response shipping-container laboratories for COVID19 PCR testing.
This is the first time a dedicated testing and sequencing laboratory will be deployed together. Although the UK has some of the most advanced DNA sequencing capability, sequencing of the COVID genome is still limited and more capacity is needed. The concern is that more mutations may occur and that vaccines may not be effective on these variants. Mutations in the region of the viral genome responsible for the “spike protein” are causing particular concern and have already been identified in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
Biotechnology company OpenCell, with existing operations in White City, designed and manufactured the units within shipping containers with a custom workflow for COVID diagnostics. They have shipped a number of the same units internationally and currently provide airport PCR testing for the Isle of Jersey. By basing the units as close as possible to the point of need they are capable of a turnaround time of 12 hours from swab to result for local residents and workers.
Since opening in 2017, Stanhope, Mitsui Fudosan and AIMCo’s White City Place has quickly emerged as one of the UK’s leading life science and biotech hubs alongside the new Imperial College campus. A host of innovative and industry leading companies have moved their headquarters and laboratories to the site, including the global pharmaceutical firm Novartis, Autolus and other life sciences companies such as Synthace, Gamma Delta and Engitix. In 2020, White City Place, not including the Gateway site, was acquired by Cadillac Fairview, the real estate arm of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.
Jonathan Trout, Property and Commercial Director, Stanhope said: “We are pleased to have had the opportunity to work with OpenCell to help play our part in the fight against COVID-19 and to make available this space at our life sciences hub at White City Place. This is the first time that dedicated testing and DNA sequencing laboratories have been deployed together and is indicative of the enterprising spirit and innovation that White City Place has become known for.”
Helene Steiner, OpenCell CEO, stated: “We are proud to support the UK in this most challenging time with laboratories capable of thousands of tests daily, delivered efficiently and at the point of need. White City is the heart of biotech in the UK and this is the optimal location to provide the shortest possible turnaround time for those within the catchment radius of 3 miles.”