People & places

Recognition for Sheffield scientists involved in Lighthouse Labs project

February 8, 2021

Staff and students at the University of Sheffield have been recognised for their role in helping to establish the Alderley Park Lighthouse Laboratory in Cheshire, a key component of the Government’s COVID-19 testing programme in the battle against Coronavirus. 

The ‘super-lab’, part of the largest diagnostics network in UK history, required an army of scientifically-trained volunteers to help increase the UK’s COVID-19 testing capacity when the site was created from scratch in March 2020. 

Half a dozen University of Sheffield staff and postgraduate research students from the Faculty of Science volunteered their services. 

Mark Wigglesworth, Site Director at the Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab, paid tribute to the scientists who helped make the Alderley Park facility a reality, which nearly a year on, has processed over 7 million Covid samples. 

Mark said:

“We were astounded by the sheer number of volunteers who stepped forward at the start of the year to dedicate their time and energy towards a common goal; how the application of technology and science can contribute towards the eradication of the terrible pandemic we’ve all had to endure this year.  

“Over 1,000 individuals from all walks of life answered the call and within a few short weeks, we were operational. Following the launch, we’ve had a great deal of these volunteers join the team as full-time staff.  

“Today, our almost 600 staff members can sample up to 50,000 tests a day, and we’ve just processed our 7 millionth sample. It’s a tremendous figure, but one that would have been impossible were it not for the tenacity and hard working ethos of our volunteers and wider team.” 

The Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab is one of several government super-labs across the UK, which forms the Lighthouse Lab network. At the end of October, the network had the combined capacity to process half a million tests samples each day. 

Professor John Derrick, Acting Vice-President and Head of the Faculty of Science at the University of Sheffield, said:

“Staff and students from the University of Sheffield played a major part in getting the Lighthouse labs up and running. They are the unsung heroes of a system that is a vitally important part of the Government’s scientific response to tackling the pandemic. It shows the way scientists, many of them early-career scientists, can respond with ingenuity and creativity to the big challenges facing society.” 

Other staff and students who volunteered and worked at the Lighthouse Lab in Cheshire include: Rebecca Hull, Carolin Kobras, Alex Remmington and Mahrukh Shameem, whilst Hannah Regan and Chris Donaldson have since become full-time staff at the Lighthouse Lab.

Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) runs the Lighthouse Lab at Alderley Park following a request from the Department for Health to rapidly expand Covid-19 testing.

Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab is part of the largest diagnostics network in UK history, set up in response to an unprecedented global pandemic. Its testing capacity was successfully set up, and scaled up, at speed. The lab now processes nearly 50,000 samples daily and has, to date, processed over 7 million samples from regional test centres, mobile test units, care homes and home testing kits from across the country.  

News & Analysis

by Editor