UK, Pakistan entities collaborate to launch first robot-operated Covid-19 testing lab in Islamabad

Published November 12, 2020
British High Commissioner Christian Turner observes Future Labs facility in Islamabad at the lab's inauguration. — Photo courtesy UK HC's Twitter
British High Commissioner Christian Turner observes Future Labs facility in Islamabad at the lab's inauguration. — Photo courtesy UK HC's Twitter

In order to increase Pakistan's testing capacity for the novel coronavirus, Future Trust and Opencell UK collaborated to launch the country's first robot-operated Covid-19 testing laboratory in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The Future Labs, which can conduct up to 2,000 tests per day, was inaugurated by British High Commissioner Christian Turner.

Future Trust — a non-profit organisation (NPO) set up by the JS Group — has established the laboratory in Pakistan, using technology developed by Opencell UK. The NPO seeks to use advanced technology to address the problems caused by poverty.

The mobile Covid-19 laboratory is a Biosafety Level 2 Plus facility built in accordance with ISO 15189 standards and is equipped to meet the requirements for high throughput Covid-19 RT-qPCR testing. Since it employs five liquid handling robots, the lab only needs six people to operate shifts.

While speaking at the inauguration ceremony, British High Commissioner Turner lauded the initiative and said that the lab was "a vibrant example of a UK-Pakistan relationship built on people".

“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,” he said at the launching ceremony.

He also thanked Ali Jehangir Siddiqui, the ambassador-at-large for foreign investments, for "making him excited about the project".

In a tweet later, Turner congratulated the premier's aide on health, Dr Faisal Sultan, Opencell UK and JS Group on the creation of the "best automated lab in Pakistan".

Siddiqui, who was also present at the ceremony, thanked Turner for his support for the project and added: "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."

Head of Molecular Biology for Future Labs Dr Azeem Butt also welcomed the partnership and said that it was "heartening to see corporate organisations such as JS Bank and Future Trust working on innovation in science to fight Covid-19".

JS Bank, in a tweet, said it was "pleased to be a strategic partner" in the launching of Future Labs, which would increase testing capacity in Pakistan.

Pakistan authorities are looking to increase testing capacity as the country battles the virus' second wave.

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