Life Sciences Hub Wales
Cari-Anne Quinn, CEO of Life Sciences Hub Wales, explores the vital role that Wales’ life sciences industry is playing in the national and global fight against the virus.
The response of Welsh industry to Covid-19 has been nothing short of remarkable, helping to protect and treat people across the world, as well as stimulate the economy by creating hundreds of skilled jobs.
The way that Welsh businesses have stepped up to support health and social care services in response to the pandemic has been inspirational. Our home-grown businesses, and the multinationals who have joined us, have worked with agility and pace to create urgently needed solutions.
As well as saving lives, their collective efforts have helped create and safeguard 621 jobs in Wales and have generated over £34million for the Welsh economy.
Welsh companies have demonstrated their leadership in the global life sciences industry, while businesses from other sectors have adapted to supply critical products. Many of these have been supported by the Welsh Government’s SMART Cymru fund which supports Welsh businesses to develop, implement and commercialise new products, processes and services.
Life Sciences Hub Wales works with Welsh health and social care services to understand the challenges they face. We work with companies and innovators to identify solutions to these problems and it is a privilege to see new ideas become products and services that make a real difference to people in Wales and beyond.
In April, as part of a collaboration between Industry Wales, Life Sciences Hub Wales and the Welsh Government, a national call to industry was issued in response to Covid-19. Life Sciences Hub Wales was appointed by Welsh Government as the single point of contact to receive offers of support from industry.
Our work focussed on three key areas: sourcing critical requirements, Covid-19 testing supplies and digital solutions. Over this time, we received over 2,000 enquiries from industry and have since worked with an array of businesses, including multi-nationals at the forefront of scientific technology like Ortho Clinical Diagnostics and PerkinElmer, as well as leading Welsh life sciences businesses like DTR Medical, Rocialle Healthcare, Huntleigh Healthcare and Williams Medical.
We worked with Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a global provider of medical testing solutions, to produce antibody tests at its state-of-the-art facility in Pencoed. It is now one of three companies worldwide to provide a Covid-19 antibody test for the UK. The made-in-Wales tests, which detect antibodies from a previous and recent Covid-19 infection, are being rolled out across the UK as part of the national testing strategy.
International manufacturer PerkinElmer also offered to source testing kits and associated lab equipment. With bases in Wales and the UK, PerkinElmer was able to work with its UK customers to requisition devices that could be repurposed for Covid-19 testing. We are currently supporting PerkinElmer to build a 200 strong team of specialists at Wales’ new Lighthouse Lab in Newport.
Identifying companies that could innovate and operate at scale and pace has been key, as has ensuring quality assurance to protect frontline workers and patients. This requires rigorous checks to ensure correct product specifications are met and that supplies are safe and certified for use.
We have worked with NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership and the National Procurement Service to ensure companies had access to the right information to help them meet these requirements. We also worked closely with The Surgical Materials Testing Laboratory (STML) – whose role is to provide testing and technical services for medical devices supplied to NHS Wales – to enable procurement services to make evidence-based purchasing.
With our help, Caerphilly-based Transcend Packaging, which usually manufactures sustainable packaging for quick service restaurants, became PPE certified to create millions of protective face shields which are now being supplied throughout the UK and globally. We supported Transcend to adapt production and ensure their shields met all requirements. Over three million shields have been produced, with over 1.5 million going directly into the NHS Wales supply chain, councils, care homes, retailers and factories.
Working with companies like these has been a privilege. These businesses are placing Wales at the forefront of the life sciences sector; driving innovation and product development in response to challenges the world has never faced before.
Life Sciences Hub Wales is committed to supporting the acceleration and adoption of innovation across health and social care beyond the pandemic.
We will continue to work with life sciences companies to create a more resilient and robust healthcare system in Wales and beyond.