A new laboratory aiming to achieve 30,000 coronavirus tests a day is to be set up at Cambridge University.
The UK government has set a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month to help deal with the pandemic.
The new facility would begin with 1,000 to 2,000 daily tests by mid-April and aim to “ramp up progressively” to 30,000 tests in the first week of May.
Health minister Edward Argar told the BBC the laboratory would be “making a significant contribution” to testing.
The facility will be based at the university’s Anne McLaren Laboratory on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, in collaboration with pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.
In a joint statement the organisations said the facility would be used for “high throughput screening for Covid-19 testing and to explore the use of alternative chemical reagents for test kits in order to help overcome current supply shortages”.
Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that the company typically carries out polymerase chain reaction tests “very regularly”.
“The challenge here is to bring this to a big scale and achieve 30,000 tests per day,” he said.
The number of people to have died with coronavirus in the UK is 6,159, with 55,242 having tested positive.
In its most recent figures, the Department for Health and Social Care said that 14,006 tests were carried out on Monday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged 100,000 tests a day as part of a strategy to increase testing across the country.
Mr Argar said although the new facility might not reach its maximum capacity by the end of this month, it would be “making a significant contribution to that overall total of 100,000 tests per day”.
He said the health secretary was “determined that we are going to meet that target”, adding “he knows how important it is, he’s committed to it, as is the whole government”.
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