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Over 300 Cardiff University staff volunteer in COVID19 crisis

6 April 2020

Two volunteers sat in the teaching labs in School of Biosciences

Researchers from Cardiff University have volunteered their world-leading scientific skills and facilities to help at the frontline of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Over 300 scientists are donating their time and expertise to prepare diagnostic kits for patients in Wales, to ease pressure on the hospital staff. A team of volunteers from across scientific disciplines at Cardiff University are using their labs during the UK-wide lockdown to provide the sterile environments needed to develop COVID19 tests.

The call for volunteers originated in the School of Biosciences, as a team of researchers decided to put together a network of Cardiff University staff and students who would be willing and able to help however they could.

Eider Valle-Encinas, one of the PhD students of the School of Biosciences leading the operation, said: “On March 21, we put out a call-to-action asking for scientists from the University to volunteer their time during this crisis. The response was truly outstanding. By March 25, we had over a hundred of volunteers from different Schools across the University.

“To date, there are around 300 volunteers who are contributing their expertise to help relieve the pressure on the healthcare workers in Wales. Our team of volunteers are primarily from the School of Biosciences, the School of Medicine and the School of Pharmacy - but members of the School of Psychology, School of Chemistry and School of Dentistry have also signed up to volunteer via an online form.

“We are using a volunteer matching system to find the best volunteers for specific tasks to help the NHS during this unprecedented time. Our first task has involved preparing the chemicals for COVID19 diagnostics. We will prepare the reagents needed, then these are being couriered to the University of Wales Hospital in the Heath for use in their isolation units.

“The response to our call-to-action has been truly great and heart-warming. The researchers at the University are so keen to help and be involved in any way they can.”

Laboratories across the University are being used during this crisis. The School of Biosciences is home to world-leading research and cutting-edge facilities, and its teaching laboratories are equipped with the sterile fume hoods needed to prepare the chemicals for the COVID19 testing kits. Whilst the School’s lock-down procedures are in place, scientists will be able to work under strict safety conditions.

Dr Sarah Koushyar, Postdoctoral Researcher at the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute and a volunteer, said: “In these uncertain times, we all feel a little helpless and I wanted to be able to contribute in some way. We are normally cancer researchers, but during this coronavirus outbreak, a number of staff from the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute at Cardiff University have volunteered their skills to help in this crisis.

“We are working under strict safety and social distancing protocols to turn the teaching labs within the School of Biosciences into preparation areas for coronavirus testing kits.

“I feel privileged to be contributing my scientific expertise to help in any way during this global crisis.”

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