UCL News


UCL and London partners bolster UK’s COVID-19 testing capacity

8 October 2020

Up to 10,000 COVID-19 tests a day will be carried out by UCL in partnership with Health Services Laboratories; the new initiative will significantly boost the UK’s community testing capacity and continues our efforts in support of the national pandemic response.

Samples being loaded into PCR testing analyser

This increase in diagnostic testing forms part of the pan-London Testing Alliance, set up by life science cluster MedCity, which brings together world-leading universities, healthcare institutes, industry and pathology service providers.  

The announcement was made today by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock.

Collectively the Alliance, which includes UCL in partnership with Health Service Laboratories (HSL), King’s Health Partners, Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London, will offer at least 20,500 more tests a day for COVID-19 by March 2021.

Existing university and hospital laboratories, along with new test sites, will be used to deliver this large-scale diagnostic capability, which will start processing samples from November.

The initiative will boost the UK Government’s current ‘pillar 2’ testing capacity, meaning the labs in London will process samples from across the UK. Pillar 2 testing is swab testing for the wider population and separate from pillar 1 testing in hospitals and for NHS and care home workers.

London universities are also involved in the development and manufacture of a potential vaccine.

Neelam Patel, Chief Executive of MedCity, said: “We work to create powerful scientific networks and we’re proud that the latest collaboration we’ve brought together will help expand capacity for COVID-19 testing in the UK. 

“By using a well-established academic cluster, we are able to mobilise London’s world-leading institutions to refocus their space, equipment and people on this most pressing and unprecedented healthcare need.”

Professor David Lomas, UCL Vice-Provost (Health), said:  “Testing is critical to controlling the spread of the virus.  UCL is delighted to be part of this pan-London approach which will greatly add to the Government’s testing capacity.  The MedCity Testing Alliance illustrates what can be achieved when universities, the NHS and the private sector work together to combat COVID-19.”

Dr Rachael Liebmann, Group Medical Director at HSL, said: "Health Services Laboratories are particularly proud of the support we have provided for the national Covid-19 effort. In addition to supporting our hospitals and GP practices we have already been able to forge new academic, community and care home partnerships for COVID-19 testing.

"This development, in partnership with UCL, will enable wider and faster access to accurate test results allowing people to self-isolate if required. Together with our partners we want to do everything we can to fight the virus."

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “At a time when testing scale up is a major public health priority, the alliance’s incredible effort and leadership in this area is important. Their partnership will be invaluable for increasing testing capacity at this crucial time and we look forward to further collaboration with the Alliance.”

Med-City is part-funded by the Mayor of London. Other partners supporting the Alliance’s efforts include: the Greater London Authority, NHS, Public Health England, the multi-agency Regional Strategic Testing Group, and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).



  • Credit: Health Service Laboratories

Media contact 

Henry Killworth

Tel: + 44 (0) 7881 833274

E: h.killworth [at] ucl.ac.uk