The UK National Measurement Laboratory (NML) at LGC contributed to the UK's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, providing high accuracy measurements and supporting healthcare providers and industry.
The role of diagnostics
Diagnostic tests were seen as crucial in the identification and management of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is now widely accepted that better prioritisation of early diagnostic testing and earlier access to more robust tests may have reduced disease spread and saved lives.
The 100 Days Mission was developed in 2021 by scientific, governmental and industry experts to improve the response to future threats using lessons learned from COVID-19 and previous epidemics. The aim is to provide safe, effective, and affordable rapid diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines within 100 days of a declaration of a major outbreak. Building sustainable resources for the evaluation of future diagnostics that can be rapidly activated, mobilised and implemented is essential to achieving this target.
Working closely with the wider measurement community, and national and global policy and healthcare officials who were on the front line of managing national responses to Covid-19, the NML led on the development of the CCQM Pandemic Roadmap. The Roadmap sets out recommendations for specific measurement interventions that could enable a more rapid response and enhance clinical outcomes, providing globally accepted baseline measurements for policy decisions for any future infectious disease outbreak.
The NML continues to work to support the UK's pandemic preparedness with partners across the diagnostic space, establishing a sustainable framework for assurance of accurate diagnostic tests within the UK that will guarantee robust and reliable diagnosis to support and inform wide-scale public health.
Pandemic Preparedness Parliamentary event
The UK's leading efforts to establish a framework for timely access to quality-assured diagnostic tests for any future infectious disease outbreak was presented in parliament at an event hosted by Stephen Metcalf MP, Chair of the UK Parliamentary Scientific Committee, on behalf of the National Measurement Laboratory (NML) at LGC.
The event which took place on Wednesday, 18 October 2023 in the House of Commons, examined the considerable successes of the UK's National Measurement Laboratory, working closely with the MHRA, UKHSA, NHS laboratories and other partners, in developing the underpinning reference measurement system during COVID-19 to support test accuracy and how this learning is already providing support for the next future infectious disease outbreak.
Stephen Metcalfe, MP, introduced the event, highlighting the learnings from COVID-19 and the needs for future preparedness. The panel, consisting of experts from the NML, UKHSA, MHRA and FIND, provided firsthand perspectives of working in the diagnostic space through the pandemic at national and international level. The panel session finished with a look forward as to how the international framework (2022-09-30-ccqm-pandemic-roadmap - BIPM), led by the UK and developed to ensure timely access to quality-assured diagnostic tests for any future infectious disease outbreak, is already being deployed both within the UK and internationally.
A lively Q&A session chaired by Stephen followed and the networking session provided an opportunity for extended discussions between the attendees. Discussions covered the current lower profile of diagnostics and how this can be raised alongside therapeutics and vaccines, the importance of the public’s expectations and need to continue to ensure trust in future diagnostics, as well the need and value for all Diagnostic community stakeholders to align their voices and resources to address identified priorities and solutions. The opportunity for supporting UK industry and regulators by improving post-market surveillance through performance benchmarking to both improve accuracy for the public and encourage innovation in the sector was raised. Furthermore, the requirement for government to provide clear, consistent and ambitious long-term policies that give the UK Diagnostics industry confidence to make critical investment in the UK was seen to be an essential component in underpinning stability of the sector and maximising Diagnostic impact.
The role and importance of diagnostics, as identified in lessons learned and discussions held, can be applied as much to infectious diseases as to a wider range of diagnostic challenges we are currently facing, including antimicrobial resistance, precision medicine and cancer detection. However, Diagnostics are still viewed as the poor relation in terms of government priority-setting when compared to Therapeutics and Vaccine development. Yet, diagnostics are preventative, far less costly and the only means for identifying an emerging issue and providing a quick response, and of course are often needed to determine whether novel Therapies and Vaccines are working.
We are continuing to following up on the discussions in this space.