A group of biopharma companies, working with academics and individuals in the sector, has manufactured enough of a key component used in Covid-19 testing to support 180,000 tests.
The group, which has called itself the Covid Alliance, imported the raw materials for lysis buffer into the country last month as reagent shortages held back the State’s testing programme.
It now has the capacity within a new supply chain to manufacture reagent for 750,000 tests, it said, and was “now ready” to manufacture enough for the 245,000 tests that were originally requested by the HSE.
Members of the group include large multinationals in the pharma sector such as Bristol-Myers Squib, Eli Lilly, MSD, Wuxi and Alexion.
The buffer will be stored at a HSE distribution centre where it will be made available to clinical laboratories in hospitals across Ireland, the group said in a statement.
Many of the members of the group are also involved in the trade sectoral body BioPharmaChemIreland (BCPI). The reagent was manufactured by the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT).
The material has been given to the HSE at no charge. Matt Moran, who is director of BCPI, said his members were pleased to support the national effort in fighting Covid-19. "This is a great example of industry and academia coming together in common cause to solve a problem for the country in these very difficult times."
Support was offered from academics in a range of institutions, including Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University of Limerick and the Royal College of Surgeons, as well as Cork IT and Sligo IT.
A number of other pharma companies also gave support, including GSK and Gilead Sciences.
Eamon Judge, who is director of Eli Lilly, chair of the Covid Alliance and president of the Irish affiliate of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering, said it was "heart-warming and reassuring to see academia and industry collaborate for the good of the country".
In a statement the industry group said it has undertaken other initiatives during the crisis, including the development of indigenous manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and its decontamination for reuse.
Prof Niall Barron of the NIBRT said the organisation was "delighted to contribute to this collaborative effort to relieve a critical bottleneck in the Covid-19 testing protocol".
Much of the raw material used to manufacture the lysis buffer was sourced overseas as countries competed to find ingredients in the Covid-19 testing process.
In early April, the State’s health authorities could only carry out in the region of 1,500 tests a day, although this has now grown, and the HSE says there is capacity to carry out around 100,000 tests a week.