Chemicals sourced to allow 10,000 Covid-19 tests a day, says national lab

Dublin-based NVRL reaches agreement with Genomics Medicine Ireland

The National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) has sourced a new supply of chemicals that will enable it increase coronavirus testing to as many as 10,000 per day in the coming weeks.

The Dublin-based lab has reached agreement with Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI) for the supply of reagents used to test swab samples taken from suspected Covid19-infected patients.

Global shortages in supplies have left testing dramatically short of Government targets.

The production of reagents is considered essential to understanding the outbreak and to help decide when current movement restrictions can be eased.


The new deal with GMI, also involving the HSE, will enable the NVRL to get to 10,000 tests per day in the coming weeks, it said, “supporting a more rapid analysis of samples and a quicker turn-around of test results to clinicians”.

Reagents that will be used in the production of up to 900,000 tests have been secured and components for the first 200,000 have already been delivered to the Dublin laboratory.

"Diagnostic testing for Covid-19 is critical to tracking the virus, understanding epidemiology, informing case management, and to suppressing transmission," explained Dr Cillian De Gascun, consultant virologist and director of the NVRL.

“Our partnership with GMI will significantly support our efforts to achieve scale in our laboratory. GMI’s rapid response in producing reagents for NVRL will be pivotal in our understanding of the outbreak and help in deciding when we can begin to lift current movement restrictions.”

The ongoing shortage of reagents meant the State’s health authorities could only carry out 1,500 tests a day compared to its ideal daily rate of 15,000.

GMI's chief executive Dr Anne Jones said the rapid deployment of materials will enable a significant increase in the numbers of daily tests "and this most importantly supports patients and those anxiously awaiting test results".

Elsewhere, a group of mostly US based multinationals with Irish operations have successfully imported a chemical compound which they will now use to make a vital ingredient in the testing process which the Government has struggled to supply on international markets.

BioPharmaChem Ireland chief executive Matt Moran said that members had secured 700 kilogrammes of guanidine thicyanate, and would begin making trial batches of lysis buffer, a component in testing, next week. Once the trial batches had been tested, he said the shipment would make enough lysis buffer to support the lab testing of over 500,000 tests for Covid-19.

The compound was sourced by Clonmel company Camida. Mr Moran said the lsysis buffer, once it was completed, would be supplied to the HSE if it wanted it at an insignificant cost, less than the cost of producing and sourcing the materials. The test batches are being made in the National Institute for Biotechnology Research and Training in UCD.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times