Monday, April 13, 2020

UK coronavirus test lag due to lack of chemical industry?

Professor Sir Harry Burns, who served as chief medical officer for Scotland from 2005 to 2014, said the failure to quickly scale up the volume of coronavirus testing was primarily down to the lack of a domestic pharmaceutical supply chain and lab capacity. 
By the end of last week, there were only around 20,000 tests for coronavirus taking place every day, against a UK government target of 100,000 by the end of this month. Ministers have blamed the difficulty in securing enough of the necessary chemical reagents amid a global spike in demand triggered by the crisis. 
In Germany, which is home to global pharmaceutical and chemical giants including Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim and BASF, as many as 100,000 tests are already being carried out every day, allowing coronavirus hotspots to be identified more quickly. The country has so far posted one of the lowest trajectories for the curve of virus deaths, with a toll on Friday of 2,373. 
...Asked what the key factor limiting testing capacity in the UK is, Burns pointed to “the decline in the chemicals industry, which in the 50s and 60s, the 70s and 80s even, was an important part of the British economy...
...He highlighted the closure of a major chemicals industry hub in Paisley, which saw hundreds of skilled chemicals jobs leave the area. “That whole area, which used to be a huge campus, was flattened and it’s now private housing.”
I'm pretty skeptical about this, but it's an interesting idea, and it's good that people recognize that there is a tie-in between the core chemicals industry and advanced pharma/biotech. (...something tells me that, per capita, the size of the UK and the German chemical industries aren't really that different? I dunno.) 


  1. The pharma industry Pfizered way more scientists than the chemical industry did (or at least a higher percentage of what they had a few decades ago).

    I really don't think what's left of pharma is up to the COVID-19 challenge, unless they train marketing people to work in the labs.

    1. I have a lot of feelings about "Pfizer" being used as a verb! But fundamentally cannot disagree...

  2. Who can disagree with that? GB has been decimated by "gobblers" that includes Pfizer, Astra and others. Surprised that Glaxo in UK did not end up that way, but covid 19 will take care of that. Sorry state of affairs. Believing that China will help is a delusional thought. Scrap that 5G and Huawei policies!

  3. Given that I understand that we're still relying on PCR almost exclusively, I think PCR primers could be a limiting factor. Where do they get made? Assuming they're produced by oligo synthesis I don't think the UK has any large scale production any more, but Germany definitely does. Would love more details from someone with deeper insight though.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20