Monday, 8th February 2021, will surely go down as one of the proudest days in SureScreen Diagnostics’ history.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited our manufacturing site as the UK Government officially announced that we had secured an order for 20 million rapid COVID-19 antigen tests.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised the “brilliant work done by SureScreen and the contribution it will make to our rapid testing programme.
“It is another example of the home-grown talent, ingenuity and industry that exists right here in the UK.”
Mr Johnson wanted to see for himself the production line for the vast order and even helped make a few tests.
He met the company’s founder Jim Campbell and current directors, Alastair, Alex and David Campbell, and Research & Development Manager Yasin Kurmoo and Operations Manager Jennifer Chambers.
The production process was demonstrated to Mr Johnson by Vicky Greaves in the packing area and Tara Meehan and Naeem Zohra on the line.
Approximately 200 jobs could be created following the order, in addition to nearly 200 since work began on COVID-19 testing last year.
We already export the tests to 53 countries and dependencies across the world.
The tests take just ten minutes to run and are used in various places such as care homes, businesses, schools and universities.
The test results at the laboratory validation stage showed the sensitivity against high viral loads was 97.1%, and specificity was 99.9%.
Mr Johnson said: “Lateral flow tests, like the ones being made here at SureScreen, are going to be crucial, for instance, for getting schools open.
“These SureScreen tests are very good, and they pick up whether you are infectious very accurately.
“That is incredibly valuable because we know who has got it and who may not have symptoms. That could help us in all sorts of ways.
“Lateral flow testing of this kind, I think, is really going to be a great use to businesses, to schools, to the whole country even as we roll out the vaccination programme.
“We are thinking about not just coming out of the pandemic strongly but coming out of it in a way that allows us to build back better and build back greener.
“It will be the private sector, like SureScreen, which will drive this.”
The day was hugely enjoyable for the SureScreen team who also found themselves in the eye of media attention.
Occupational health technician Alice Clarke was responsible for testing all arrivals with a nasal swab and was also interviewed by BBC Radio Derby and the Derby Telegraph.
She told journalists: “I think it is great for such a small family company to be able to help with the pandemic. It was really exciting to find out the Prime Minister was visiting.”
David Campbell said: “It was a brilliant day and we are delighted to be providing our tests to the UK government.
“We believe our rapid antigen tests can really help in screening people both in the community and in clinical settings.
“Routine testing is crucial to help business, as well as hospitals and GPs.”
David emphasised that it had taken many years of hard work for SureScreen to arrive at this point.
He said: “Really it is our experience in IVD medical devices over the last 25 years that has helped us to move quickly in the fight against the pandemic.”