How Yourgene Health stepped up to the COVID-19 challenge
Yourgene Health is a leading integrated technologies and services business, enabling the delivery of genomic medicine. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the demand for PCR testing, Yourgene was uniquely placed to offer COVID-19 testing, having developed SARS-CoV-2 test, Clarigene®, which is maufactured and processed in its own Yourgene Genomic Services laboratory, based at Citylabs 1.0 in Manchester. Yourgene Genomic Services, born from an established NIPT service laboratory and a modest acquisition, broke the conventions on how testing regimes are typically launched and introduced the PCR testing service into the market in a matter of weeks. The team vastly expanded its testing capacity by converting every spare inch of underutilised office space created by remote working into high-specification diagnostic laboratories capable of handling >15,000 COVID-19 samples a day.
As an ISO15189 accredited provider, we delivered an assured service to DHSC and private providers, which continues to this day. Our testing enabled people to return to work more safely, travel internationally for business, leisure, and to visit loved ones, while helping limit the spread of COVID-19 by identifying people who tested positive for the virus. At its peak, we were receiving over 15,000 samples a day! Next to come were alarming new variants of the virus and a national request for genome sequencing services calls. As one of the handful of laboratories in the UK with Next Generation Sequencing capability (a complex genetic technology), we stepped up to the challenge, launching the service in just a matter of days – six months prior to the pandemic, launching a much simpler PCR testing service within weeks was uncharacteristic.
We are now looking into how we can apply the knowledge we have gained to further workflows that would benefit from the improved automation we developed. We anticipate this will increase efficiencies and turnaround times for a raft of clinical testing services – therefore, getting the results to patients faster and enabling them to receive the correct treatment sooner. We all know that time to result is such an important factor in many diagnoses and as such everything we can do to shorten turnaround times whilst maintaining quality will have positive impact on healthcare. With the backlog that the NHS is experiencing, we will be looking for ways to help them catch up on life-saving diagnostics and subsequent treatments.
Diagnostic testing has never been more prominent or topical, and diagnostic companies will need to be agile, efficient and provide cost-effective testing to ensure they can meet the demands of the future.