New machine will help in coronavirus fight

PUBLISHED: 10:00 09 May 2020

Professor Bill Fraser. Picture: University of East Anglia

Professor Bill Fraser. Picture: University of East Anglia

University of East Anglia

Essex Freemasons are helping to fund a £100,000 research project to scale up antibody tests for Covid-19 across the East of England.

David Ellis, Director of Development at the University of East AngliaDavid Ellis, Director of Development at the University of East Anglia

The money will be used to purchase a new advanced testing machine from America, which will accept blood samples from NHS hospitals to verify whether people have already had the virus.

The machine, a ‘Dynex high volume pipette diluter’, will boost testing from 600 to over 2,000 a day and will help the community once it has checked NHS and care workers.

It will be used by scientists led by Professor Bill Fraser, Head of the Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia, Norwich who is a also a Consultant Metabolic Physician at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital,

It will come online by July. Until then a secondhand unit is being put into place to ensure that testing can start as soon as possible.

Covid-19 antibody tests check the blood. These serological tests could detect if someone has had the virus and recovered, gaining some immunity from it.

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The University of East Anglia says individuals who have generated antibodies will be followed to see if the antibodies confer immunity that would allow them to return to work – particularly critical for NHS workers.

It could also better identify and protect those who have not produced any antibodies.

Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, said they raised funds alongside colleagues in Norfolk, Suffolk and Hertfordshire.

“Until now the university has only been able to handle a few hundred antibody tests each day.

“This new high throughput machine will significantly increase that level to 2,000 daily, which could make a huge difference to our hard pressed NHS and care home workers.”

David Ellis, Director of Development at the University of East Anglia, said they were grateful for the support.

“This new machine will make a huge difference and is capable of testing up to 200 samples an hour.”

Essex Freemasons have also pledged more than £30,000 for community projects, providing visors for up to 400 care homes across the county.

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