Dr Andrew Harbottle of MDNA Life Sciences with Cllr. Ged Bell of Newcastle City Council.
Chloe Shakesby

Life After Lockdown: The science firm offering coronavirus testing directly to businesses

As the country emerges from lockdown, it’s a very different landscape for a lot of businesses.

Bdaily spoke to business owners across the country about how they’re changing their ways of working, and what innovations or services they’re adopting permanently after lockdown.

MDNA Life Sciences, a developer of cancer detection tests based on mitochondrial DNA, is making a COVID-19 virus testing service available from its Newcastle-upon-Tyne laboratory directly to commercial businesses and other organisations with immediate effect.

Harry Smart, chairman of MDNA, commented: “Our core business is the discovery of biomarkers in mitochondrial DNA.

“Research on these tests is currently paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the technology and processes we use are perfectly suited to carrying out tests to detect the COVID-19 virus.

“We are a relatively small company by some standards, but that means we have been able to move fast and cost-effectively to develop a world-class COVID-19 testing service which we can offer at a highly competitive price.

“The ability of businesses and other organisations to operate safely while the COVID-19 virus remains in circulation is critical to the recovery of our economy.

“The need for widespread testing is acknowledged as being crucially important in the fight against COVID-19 and our new service will enable businesses and other organisations to monitor the health of their employees, and their working environments, regularly and help to prevent outbreaks at individual places of work to the benefit of all.

“Re-starting businesses or continuing to run them safely is critical to our economy.

“MDNA’s Category 2 Biological Study standard laboratory is perfectly suited to handle high volumes of COVID-19 tests and to help businesses get back on their feet again.”

Councillor Ged Bell, cabinet member for employment and culture at Newcastle City Council said: “Newcastle Helix has a mission of helping people live longer, healthier and smarter lives with MDNA and its work perfectly illustrating the purpose of our community.

“Located within the North East’s established diagnostics cluster, they are standing out as innovators who are making a positive and immediate impact as they adapt their technology to support the global fight against COVID-19.

“The Biosphere was created to support the commercialisation of biotechnology and innovations like this will support the recovery of our economy as businesses look to reopen and keep people safe.”

The laboratory is run by Dr Andrew Harbottle, who has led the company’s research activities for more than a decade.

Dr Harbottle explained: “The technology used for the detection of the COVID-19 virus is the same as the technology we already use in our work on the detection of disease biomarkers in mitochondrial DNA.

“It was therefore relatively easy for us to implement a COVID-19 testing capability.

“Our test has been fully validated, so businesses and organisations can be confident in the accuracy of the results.

“We’re highly responsive, with a fast turnaround from pick-up to result reporting.”

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