Porton Down laboratory Photograph:( Reuters )
The laboratory, which now employs nearly 3,000 scientists, is famous for identifying the nerve agent used to poison a Russian ex-spy in 2018
As nations around the globe battle to control the widespread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the UK has decided to bullet-proof itself against any such future dangers.
Britain has decided to invest £29.3 million in new coronavirus laboratories in an effort to "future-proof the country from the threat of new variants," the Boris Johnson-led government announced on Wednesday.
These new labs will be set up at the Porton Down research facility in southwest England and experts will constantly test the effectiveness of the vaccines against the existing and new variants of the deadly virus.
"We've backed UK science from the very start of this pandemic and this multi-million pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility at Porton Down will enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants," UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said. "This announcement is yet another critical way we will build back better to protect the country over the coming months and years."
This new funding will enable the scientists to increase the blood testing capacity from 700 to 3,000 samples per week, which will enable the experts to measure the levels of antibodies generated by vaccines quicker.
"The expanded testing capacity at Porton Down will ensure the UK stays one step ahead of the virus and is in the best possible position to respond to new threats from COVID-19 as quickly as possible," the government said.
Porton Down laboratories, officially known as The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, was established in 1916 near Salisbury in southwest England in a bid to find ways to counter the German chemical attacks in World War I. The laboratory, which now employs nearly 3,000 scientists, is famous for identifying the nerve agent used to poison a Russian ex-spy in 2018.
This new funding has been allocated as the UK experts fear a third wave, considering the speed with which new variants are developing and escaping the vaccines.
"A new variant that can escape the current vaccines is the greatest risk of a third wave," said Jenny Harries, chief executive at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)." This new investment will help us stay one step ahead of the virus by doubling our capacity to test vaccine effectiveness against emerging variants."