An Alexandria company is doing its part in the fight against COVID-19 in a big way.
LGC Biosearch Technology, which has 11 sites around the globe including former Douglas Scientific in Alexandria, is not only providing tests, but it is also providing platforms and materials to support research and production of possible treatments including the possibilities of vaccines.
Some of the LGC sites are producing COVID-19 tests and core materials, which are supplied to large companies that are producing test kits.
“We are enabling millions of tests per week to be produced and supplied around the world,” said Joe Salo, senior site director at the Alexandria LGC office. “We are the critical point of the supply chain.”
He added that the Alexandria site is an innovative laboratory automation and consumables provider. The instruments produced locally are in high demand, he said.
Salo explained three of the core products the Alexandria LGC is producing.
The first is a DNA synthesizer that produces synthetic materials known as primers, probes and other similar materials that are key ingredients in the test kits that are used for finding traits, or in this case, a virus in DNA and RNA samples from patients.
Another piece of equipment LGC is producing is the Oktopure, which is an extraction instrument that extracts DNA and/or RNA. The Oktopure takes a sample and extracts the RNA to be used for testing purposes.
The last piece of equipment is called the IntelliQube and is an instrument that takes the patient’s sample and actually does the test.The method it uses, said Salo, identifies the traits and in this case, can identify the presence of the COVID-19 disease. One IntelliQube can test up to 1,500 people in an eight-hour shift.
The company will likely produce and ship the same number of instruments this quarter as it did in three quarters leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, said Salo.
To build one of the IntelliQube machines, Salo said it takes about three weeks. Locally, LGC will produce at least 12 of these machines this quarter alone. In a typical year, the company produces about 12 of the IntelliQube machines. Salo said production has definitely increased due to COVID-19.
The company will shop about 12-15 of the Oktopures, which take about one week to prepare for delivery. Additionally, the company will produce about 12-15 of the DNA synthesizers, which takes about two to three weeks to manufacture one.
He also added that LGC products are in an estimated two-thirds of the world’s molecular tests for COVID-19.
“We are doubling our production team in one month,” said Salo. “And we are using creative ways for staffing such as using temp agencies and pulling interns from the college (Alexandria Community and Technical College). We are blessed in that we are not dealing with unemployment and layoffs as the need for our products are possibly at an all-time high.”
Salo said the company’s mission of science for a safer world is being placed front and center in today’s current global situation and that LGC has an incredibly talented and dedicated team that knows they are essential for improved outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic.
Luke Linz, the laboratory operations manager at the LGC in Alexandria, said that the company finds itself in a unique position where the products it offers can have such an immediate impact.
“Everyone is working at an incredible pace and it is rewarding knowing the work we do can really make a difference,” said Linz.
Salo added, “The leadership is working diligently knowing the safety of our people is of the greatest concern, but balancing that with the need to deliver an exploding workload to help the world battle this virus.”
LGC is headquartered in Teddington, U.K., and the company employs over 2,300 people, operating out of 22 countries worldwide.
In 2016, Douglas Scientific was acquired by LGC, a life sciences company. LGC Biosearch Technology falls under LGC’s Genomics division. Genomics is a field which has to do with studying an organism’s DNA and its genetic makeup. The local company employs about 105 people.