The Norwich scientists battling to help the world fight back against coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 15:57 30 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:31 30 April 2020

The Norwich scientists battling to help the world fight back against coronavirus. UEA has already made 1200 litres of hand sanitiser. Picture: UEA

The Norwich scientists battling to help the world fight back against coronavirus. UEA has already made 1200 litres of hand sanitiser. Picture: UEA

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With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic having a serious impact on global health and the global economy, researchers in Norwich are playing a significant role in the nation’s efforts to deal with it.

Norwich Research Park in putting all their energies into helping the UK deal with this unprecedented virus outbreak Picture: Norwich Research ParkNorwich Research Park in putting all their energies into helping the UK deal with this unprecedented virus outbreak Picture: Norwich Research Park

Whether it’s helping to manufacture ventilators, producing hand sanitiser, creating testing kits or mapping the virus, researchers at Norwich Research Park have been working hard to come up with innovative solutions.

3D printing of ventilator parts

The Government’s call for help in the manufacture of ventilators and parts is being answered by a team of researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Led by Dr Aram Saeed, in the School of Pharmacy, and Prof Ben Garrod, in the School of Biological Sciences, the team is using 3D printing technology to produce ventilator parts, masks and other critical items.

Dr Saeed said: “There is a nationwide effort to forge a real-time partnership between the healthcare services, academic institutions and businesses of all sizes to fight back against COVID-19. We hope to be able to find creative solutions faster to help combat this virus.”


Hand sanitiser for hospitals and key workers in the region

It has been well documented that there is a shortage of hand sanitiser available for healthcare professionals and key workers. The UEA Health & Social Care Partners is leading on an initiative to manufacture more hand sanitiser for the region’s health sector, with help from across the Park.

David Parfrey, executive chair at Norwich Research Park, thanked all those working on COVID-19 at the Park for all their hard work Picture: Norwich Research ParkDavid Parfrey, executive chair at Norwich Research Park, thanked all those working on COVID-19 at the Park for all their hard work Picture: Norwich Research Park

This initiative is aiming to produce hand sanitiser in the interim period until manufacturers and supply chains catch up.

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UEA Health & Social Care Partners is appealing for donations of 96pc grade ethanol, or higher, in batches of 10 litres or more.

Southwold-based brewery Adnams and The English Whisky Co, based at Roudham, are already donating.

Any businesses in the region that are able to help should contact ueahscp@uea.ac.uk

Creating a testing kit

A spin-out company of the John Innes Centre is working on a home test kit for diagnosing the COVID-19 virus.

Iceni Diagnostics has previously created kits which can identify influenza, equine flu and norovirus. Now, it is focusing on creating a kit which can give users a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer on whether or not they have the flu or the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The company uses sugar recognition in its tests instead of viral genetic codes, which are used in most laboratory tests. This means the tests will be able to accurately identify the coronavirus – even if it mutates.

Dr Berwyn Clarke, chairman of Iceni Diagnostics, said: “We have a number of prototypes which successfully identify other types of flu. We’ve got the technology so we’re focusing all our efforts on the COVID-19 coronavirus.”

The test itself would look like a pregnancy test, with users putting their saliva on the end of the stick. Within 20 minutes, the test would tell you whether or not you have the coronavirus or influenza.

Dr Clarke said: “This could change it all. At the moment what people – and particularly NHS staff – are struggling with is whether or not they are carrying the virus, or if they do have symptoms, whether it’s for the coronavirus or something else. This kit would allow people to potentially test themselves at home.


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