A new government funded diagnostic testing facility "Lighthouse Lab" is being launched in Newport, Wales as part of the government plan to increase testing for COVID-19. The new lab at Imperial Park in Newport is a "partnership" with diagnostics company, Perkin Elmer Inc., "a global leader committed to innovating for a healthier world". This is part of an initiative led by the Department for Health and Social Care, to establish a network of labs across the country - seemingly to replace existing NHS and PHE laboratories.
Health Minister, Lord Bethell says: “The UK Government has already vastly expanded the nation’s testing capabilities, more than doubling the existing capacity of our NHS and PHE laboratories. This rapid expansion means we now have the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history, a huge achievement."
Perkin Elmer has been engaged to "deliver, staff, and manage the facility". The company will also benefit from providing the equipment and testing kits. The statement says, "Perkin Elmer Genomics combines newborn screening with a full-service genomic laboratory, offering one of the most comprehensive programs globally for detecting clinically significant genomic changes. With its integrated network of high throughput laboratories in the U.S., India, Malaysia, and China, PerkinElmer Genomics maintains one of the largest databases of known genetic variations from different ancestries worldwide".
Welsh Government Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “This recruitment campaign will see 200 important jobs being created here in Wales". However, the number of job losses expected within the NHS and PHE are not explained.
Cari-Anne Quinn, CEO, Life Sciences Hub Wales, said: “PerkinElmer’s continued work to develop COVID-19 testing capacity in Wales is a clear demonstration of the world-class life sciences industry that exists here".
So, quis custodiet COVID-19? It would appear Perkin Elmer do. And, quis custodiet Perkin Elmer? According to their website corporate leadership section it appears to be largely banks (Atlas Venture, Bank of America Merrill Lynch) and heads of pharma companies.
This situation should be raising serious concerns. There is a risk that the rush to have a mass testing function in place is actually being used as a means to abdicate government responsibility to manage an NHS and public health system. Surely the authority to make any clinical decisions should be independent of industry providers with direct vested interests?