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Life Sciences 2020

How Welsh industry is responding to the coronavirus pandemic

credit: Ortho Clinical Diagnostics

Cari-Anne Quinn

Chief Executive Officer Of Life Sciences Hub Wales

Global industries and local businesses in Wales have been adapting and innovating at significant pace and scale in response to COVID-19.

The Welsh life sciences sector (including medical technologies, testing, diagnostics and medicine) and businesses beyond have played a significant role in supporting health and social care services across Wales. At the end of March, the First Minister of Wales and Life Sciences Hub Wales issued a direct call to industry in support of infection control products, medical devices and digital solutions.

This activity led to an overwhelming response from businesses across Wales and global leaders including PerkinElmer and Ortho Clinical Diagnostics. Working alongside health and social care buyers, Life Sciences Hub Wales managed the high volume of supply offers received from businesses, enabling them to focus on the most appropriate offers of support. This activity helped facilitate and deliver critical products to staff on the frontline.

At the forefront of antibody testing

We worked with Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a global provider of testing solutions for a wide range of diseases and medical conditions to produce antibody tests at its state-of-the-art facility in Pencoed, Bridgend and is now one of three companies worldwide to provide a COVID-19 antibody test for the UK.

Our ambition is to continue the acceleration and adoption of innovation across health and social care beyond the current crisis.

The made-in-Wales tests, which have been qualified by both Public Health Wales and Public Health England, detect antibodies that confirm a previous and recent COVID-19 infection, letting people know whether they have had the virus. The new-style blood tests are being rolled out across the UK as part of the national testing strategy.

International manufacturer, PerkinElmer also responded to our industry call with an offer to source testing kits and lab equipment required to process them. With established bases in Wales and the UK, PerkinElmer was able to work quickly with its UK customers to requisition technology devices that could be repurposed for COVID-19 testing.

Using recyclable material to make PPE

Caerphilly-based Transcend Packaging, manufacturers of sustainable packaging, including paper straws for quick serve restaurants, became PPE certified so that they could create millions of protective face shields that are now being supplied throughout the UK and across the globe.

We worked with them to adapt production and ensure face shields met all requirements. As a result, over three million shields have been produced, with over 1.5 million going directly into the Welsh NHS supply chain, councils, care homes, retailers and factories.

Repurposing factories to manufacture PPE

Similarly, following an initial submission to Life Sciences Hub Wales, long-standing Welsh manufacturer BCB International has been working to help NHS Wales get key supplies to frontline staff.

The organisation quickly converted its factory, based in Llanelli, to make high strength alcohol sanitiser and PPE first responder medical equipment for NHS Wales and key workers. Since its original submission, it has supplied over 500,000 litres of its hand-sanitiser to the NHS Wales and continues to provide PPE including gowns, gloves, masks and shields.

These are just a small number of the companies that we have had the privilege to work with over recent months – businesses that are placing Wales at the forefront of the life sciences sector whilst driving innovation, development and delivery at significant pace.

Our ambition is to continue the acceleration and adoption of innovation across health and social care beyond the current crisis – ensuring a more resilient and robust healthcare system in Wales and across the globe.

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