April 2020

LGC's NML team is supporting government efforts to measure COVID-19

The UK National Measurement Laboratory for chemical and bio-measurement (NML) is supporting government efforts to measure COVID-19, ensuring that tests made around the world are standardised and based on accurate measurements with clear performance criteria.

The ability to accurately and precisely measure nucleic acids (DNA, RNA) is crucial for COVID-19 testing. As one of the leading institutes globally for nucleic acid measurements the NML is developing one of the first reference measurement procedure using digital PCR for the quantification of COVID-19.

This will allow for high accuracy quantification of the biological reference standards required to support quality control of routine testing as it is expanded across hospitals, laboratories and companies throughout the UK. To do this, the NML is working in collaboration with proficiency testing providers, reference material producers and academics around the world.

In addition the NML, alongside NIBSC and NIM China, is leading a fast-tracked international comparison study for COVID-19 agreed through the BIPM, the global body responsible for measurement. This quickly initiated study, initially for a RNA sequence representative of SARS-CoV-2, will use materials developed in both countries and will involve more than a dozen Measurement Institutes around the world. It will demonstrate equivalence at the highest level to support countries across the world in providing globally standardised testing.

Ensuring international standardisation will support defined test performance criteria, providing more confidence and better harmonisation of diagnostic test results for COVID-19. This will enable meaningful exchange of information between countries and government agencies and ensure its maximum value in contributing to their decision-making.